Why safety needs a creative approach
Ahead of the Art of Work Safety Innovation Breakfasts, Acre’s Anna Keen, spoke to Daniel Hummerdal, director of safety innovation at Australian consultants, Art of Work, about why safety needs to get creative and why it’s time to step away from the rule book.
This article was originally published in September 2016.
Anna: The breakfasts were a roaring success in Australia and I get the sense that people are really excited about them being held here in the UK for the first time. Why do you think that is?
Daniel: I think it’s borne from the frustration that a lot of safety professionals feel about the industry at the moment – that sense that things aren’t changing quickly enough, that we’re measuring the wrong things, rewarding the wrong behaviour and seeing people as the problem and not the solution. It was that same sense of frustration that led to the start of the Safety Differently movement.
Anna: Who do you think is most likely to attend?
Daniel: Based on the Australian breakfasts, the people who attend are those who, as well as being frustrated at the lack of progress in the sector, are open minded, curious, keen to develop their understanding of safety and keen to try new ways of working.
Anna: What about the more traditional practitioner? Aren’t they the people we really need to be influencing?
Daniel: As a profession, Safety has moved on massively in recent years. On the whole, we’re no longer the people clutching clipboards and holding things up, we’re there to enable business, not get in its way. That said, there are still people in the profession who still take a more traditional approach and see themselves as a policing function. But people have to first realise that there’s a problem with the traditional way of looking at safety and if they don’t see the problem, then they’re just not motivated to look for alternative ways of working.
We want to work with the willing – the people who realise that there’s a problem and who are motivated enough to do something about it.
Although ‘creativity’ isn’t a word we use much in safety, there’s an argument to say that we should
Anna: You have a Master’s degree in psychology, how has that helped you in this work?
Daniel: You can’t work in safety or study psychology and not be interested in people. At the core of Safety Differently is the idea that people are the solution and I firmly believe that. I guess my interest in psychology comes to the fore when we talk about what matters to people and how that affects their willingness to change and do things differently.
The traditional way of doing safety was all about rules and uniformity, but we know now that we can achieve far better results if we accept that how organisations approach safety needs to be tailored. It’s about asking people what matters to them and the company asking itself, ‘how can we better set our people up to achieve successful outcomes? You don’t need to have studied psychology to do this, but you do need to start by thinking first about people, not about a rule book.
Anna: Where would you start in terms of applying this way of thinking?
Daniel: You start with understanding what people need. They are the recipients of risk and the ones managing the risks so their expertise and experience is crucial. It’s also about understanding that people care most about the things that they create, so it’s about giving people the opportunity to contribute and create the type of environment where safety can happen.
Anna: I can imagine a lot of people would see that as a loss of control?
Daniel: If you’re very attached to the rule book, then I can see that might be hard for some, but this isn’t about giving up control. It’s ultimately about creating safer working environments and by treating people like adults. Done well, this approach empowers people.
This kind of co-generative approach engages people because they were part of it, their views were listened to. It also gives people the benefit of collective wisdom – what might be working well on one site for example can be shared and adapted to work on another.
Anna: Is it fair to say that Safety Differently is a more creative approach?
Daniel: Safety Differently grew out of a belief that solutions that were developed for yesterday’s needs are inadequate to meet the challenges of today’s workplaces. To overcome, organisations have to become creative, curious and more innovative.
So, I’d say that’s fair, although ‘creativity’ isn’t a word we use much in safety, there’s an argument to say that we should use it. Some would say that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a better result is one definition of madness, but that happens in safety. If we want different, better results we have to think differently and that requires creativity.
Safety Innovation Breakfast – The compelling case for change
In partnership with Acre and with the support of NCRQ, Art of Work will be delivering a series of Safety Innovation Breakfasts this September that will help you see safety through a completely different lens.
Join like-minded professionals and thought leaders who are engaged in progressive change for safety and find out why focusing on success and taking an agile and adaptive approach can deliver step changes in safety performance.
The Art of Work Safety Innovation Breakfast brings together John Green, HSEQ Director for the European Hub of Laing O’Rourke, and Michael Tooma, the Asia Pacific lead partner of Clyde & Co’s Regulation and Investigation practice who will prosecute a compelling case for change.
Book your ticket now
- Glasgow – 13/09/2016 – Blythswood Square Hotel – 08.30am – 10.30am
- Manchester – 14/09/2016 – King Street Townhouse – 08.30am – 10.30am
- Birmingham – 15/09/2016 – Villa Park – 08.30am – 10.30am
- London – 16/09/2016 – Deck @ The National Theatre – 08.30am – 10.30am
Daniel is the Director of Safety Innovation at Art of Work and is recognised in Australia and overseas as a leading safety thinker and practitioner. After an initial career as a commercial pilot, Daniel studied psychology, graduating with a Master of Science in Psychology from Linköping University in Sweden. Daniel also holds Masters level courses in Human Factors in Aviation.
Daniel has worked as an accident investigator with the Swedish Civil Aviation Administration, as a Human Factors consultant with Dedale (France), and been engaged in industrial safety research in Sweden, France and Australia.
Daniel has most recently been the Safety Innovation Leader for Thiess based in Brisbane and prior to this corporate role he was the Safety Practices Leader at Sinclair Knight Merz. Daniel is passionate about finding innovative ways to help organisations to improve safety. He is also the founder of www.safetydifferently.com
Anna Keen is founder and director of Acre Frameworks. Having spent more than a decade recruiting Health and Safety professionals across the globe, Anna is working in partnership with Acre to add value to their clients and the wider Health and Safety profession through the assessment and development of behavioural competencies in the profession.
Anna has worked with industry leaders to define the competencies critical for success in Health and Safety and creating the Acre Frameworks Competency Framework. The framework underpins a range of assessment and development offerings aimed at assisting individuals and teams to improve their performance and develop their careers.
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