EHS Congress 2021
‘Major issues in health & safety should still be given the priority they deserve’
Ahead of EHS Congress 2021, which takes place in Berlin from 9-10 November 2021, SHP, an event media partner, looks ahead to what is in store this year, with Event Director, Aron Tozser.
EHS Congress Chair, Andrew Sharman
“Occupational safety and health took the back seat in 2020 with budgets stripped, initiatives put on hold and massive layoffs to avoid bankruptcy in many organisations, but 2.78 million people still die each year of workplace accidents or ill-health. The human cost of this daily adversity is vast and the economic burden would more than warrant necessary safety measures.
“Every €1 invested in occupational safety sees €2.20 return, while every €1 invested in mental health sees an incredible €4.20 return for organisations. These numbers are increasingly providing a foundation for organisations to put in place new, better safety management systems.
“Unfortunately, we’re seeing an increase in the penalisation of human error with even large organisations claiming it is ‘inevitable’. This makes the creation of a safety culture with emphasis on speak-up values very difficult for workers, as they perceive management telling them people are the problem after all. The obvious answer from a new wave of thinkers is Safety Differently or Safety II. The theory suggests a heavier reliance on people’s expertise & insights and focuses on how work is actually done.
“But not everyone is on board.
“According to Carsten Busch, the underlying question is whether safety is ‘the absence of incidents?’ We must ask ourselves ‘if we don’t have an accident, are we safe?’ All the early thinkers like Heinrich wrote about accident prevention, the Old Way of doing safety. We were taught our job is to find causes: an accident happened, we have to find the cause.
“But if you stick with the first cause you may only find your version of the truth. Hence, many EHS directors will tell you that people ARE the problem after all. Human error ends up being identified often as the root cause of many incidents.
“In many big organisations today the solution is to just throw somebody under the bus and then move on (echoing what James Reason said on people at the sharp end just inheriting the problems from higher up in the system).
“‘Why did he do something stupid like that?’ is asked a lot more often than ‘Why did it make sense to him or her in that situation?’
“With the latter you have the people as the starting point and not as an answer.
“Which returns us back to what Safety Differently embodies: people-based thinking where frontline workers are the solutions to, not the cause of, many of the problems we face.
“On the other hand, opponents like Dominic Cooper, a behavioural safety expert, says the statistics don’t match up at companies already using Safety Differently or Safety II. They appeared to show plateaued accident frequency rates or questionable effects in fatalities and lost-time incidents.
“He says other companies adopting traditional safety philosophies like behavioural safety have reduced fatalities by 80% within three years, making it a much more effective safety management tool.
Hear more from Carsten and Dom along with safety differently European ambassador John Green at the 2021 EHS Congress this November 9-10 back in Berlin, all joining the first 60 minute provocative panel debate of day one on this subject.
Click here for the full EHS Congress agenda, COVID guidelines and to register for a place at the event.
Click here for more from EHS Congress on SHP.
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