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October 20, 2021

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EHS Congress 2021

‘We must ask ourselves: do all accidents have causes?’

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.

Andrew Sharman - EHS CongressSafety is commonly represented as having a special status, unfortunately referring to the everyday practice of being treated separately. While many other areas of business are becoming more and more integrated, safety itself seems to remain disconnected in many organizations today.

Instead of obsessing about making processes ‘fool proof,’ maybe we should aim for less paperwork and bureaucracy and instead aim for integrity building a cohesive culture.

A common challenge for employers is making decisions that are difficult for their workers. There is a saying which goes, ‘Never break the rules, safety first.’ However, the other side of the coin is, ‘Don’t cost us time or money, reach your operational goals, and don’t find excuses why you can’t.’

The reason people don’t report illegal behaviour or wrongdoing is not that they are deceptive, but because they fear the repercussions like the above or don’t think something will be done with their report.

Senior management in large organisations often are unwilling to consider anything simply happening: we have come to accept our technologically powered world as essentially reliable and deterministic and so we have become accustomed to physical rules and cause and effect. Therefore, we are incredibly uncomfortable when something is out of our control, encouraging EHS people to assume that any explanation is better than no explanation at all. We must ask ourselves: do all accidents have causes?

One then regularly searches for mistakes. An assumption is made that mistakes are the most important thing to investigate. It suggests a simplistic cause-and-effect model, instead of an open mind and an in-depth look.

The correct approach is not to go searching for and killing causes, but rather to figure out which conditions lead to injuries and find ways to handle them.

To save time and effort, we look for the first explanation, particularly when it reinforces what we already believe.

The first step is to study as much as possible on how people work in their professions, and the second step is to stop being judgemental.

It is becoming increasingly clear that absentminded mistakes really means that humans can’t be aware of anything all of the time.

‘Major issues in health & safety should still be given the priority they deserve’

Conclusions drawn from this point indicate that most often safety violators are not aware of the potentially harmful consequences that may arise as a result of their deviation from the rules.

It is of course neither feasible nor desirable to have a no-blame setting. Accountability is one of many aspects of satisfaction, and for the majority of people, it is something they want. Proposals for a just culture stress creating and fostering agreement on some kind of line between agreed and unacceptable behaviour. People also expect that gross negligence cases stand out immediately.

Consequences of the above fear cultures may be non-reporting, reducing estimates of releases in order to provide lower reporting categories, or using light duty to decrease LTIs, which compromises consistency in lieu of quantity.

In addition, the new wave is getting stronger every year dedicated to undermining the “Zero Harm” culture movement whose vocabulary, thought and influences encourage extremist use of ‘zero harm’.

The language of investigative reports should be based on elucidating why it made sense for people to do what they did, rather than evaluating certain acts to assign blame after a bad outcome. The object of an investigation board should not be to serve as a prosecutor.

Workers’ conduct makes sense in light of their stresses and targets at the time The key reason why professionals go to work is to do a good job. They have no intent to injure or cause destruction. On the contrary.

The goal we should seek is a change in the logics of behaviour from rules to task-based, goal-directed behaviour. Most of the time, the rules don’t line up, so people prefer to change their actions in order to better comply with their expectations of current demands. Rules are violated from the outset. As operators gain expertise in the field, mismatch between the situation’s requirements and those of global design rules become more common. This is natural drift, the gradual dissociation of what’s done locally from what’s spelled out in paper.

Learning through experience and safety are mutually exclusive because safety cannot be measured – it’s the lack of safety that is measured by incidents and injuries. Protection has deviated from its original moral intent and is entering religious territory.

Dive deep into all of the above topics such as:

  • Questioning zero harm cultures
  • Safety differently vs behavioural safety
  • What’s done locally vs what’s spelled out on paper
  • Integrating safety into your culture
  • Human error vs human mistakes
  • Dissatisfaction within the HSE profession: decentralising and building autonomy
  • A better way to use safety indicators
  • EHS professionals and the power of their kindness it can bring
  • Mental health and COVID
  • and much more!

…at the 2021 EHS Congress coming up from 9-10 November, back in Berlin, as a face-to-face conference but also streaming LIVE online for delegates who can’t travel this year.

Read the full agenda and register here.

Click here for more from EHS Congress on SHP.

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This hub page complies all the latest government coronavirus updates. It includes what you can and cannot do in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, workplace advice from multiple sources, including information on welcoming staff back to the workplace and the latest vaccination information.

It also contains a host of useful external links and resources to find further information.


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