Cabbage Salad and Safety – Episode 5

October is National Safety Month in Australia and episode 5 of the Cabbage Salad and Safety podcast discusses a range of topics to mirror the diversity of National Safety Month.

Siobhan Flores-Walsh and myself talk about:

  • Conferences
  • Culture
  • Gender in Safety
  • Mental Health
  • Simple Safety vs Complex Safety
  • Innovation
  • Marketing and social media

The Gender in Safety conversation is one that I intend to expand upon in the coming weeks and is useful to notion relation to the increasing number of “women in safety”- type events.

KJ SFH HeadshotThis podcast is a mixed bag but I am interested in hearing your thought on the podcast and the topics it contains so post a comment here or email me.

Kevin Jones

7 thoughts on “Cabbage Salad and Safety – Episode 5”

  1. Agree with Siobhan Flores-Walsh, threading content of WiS through conference would have made it more accessible. Spoke to several who couldn’t attend 3rd day but were interested. I think SIA ran separate day based on member survey result showing low women numbers.
    Liked the podcast, well done!

  2. Hi Kevin & Siobhan,
    Once again an interesting podcast, though diverse topics covered.
    3 main points came to me as I listened:

    1: Simple vs Complex Safety – one comment I heard was that ‘clients’ want ‘simple’ solutions – whether legal, or systems, or issue specific.
    This made me stop and think that maybe one of the problems that ‘Safety Professionals’ contribute to is the desire to provide ‘generic’ solutions (maybe because it makes good business sense to sell the same product in multiple locations.) Kevin I think you even referred to generic and plain systems.

    But doesn’t this thought pattern go against the grain of the current WHS legal approach that began in the 1970/80s when the ‘prescriptors’ found they couldn’t keep up with the rate of change and complexity in workplaces and hence introduced consultative legislation?

    My understanding of WHS for many years now is that the “Risk Management” process is simple – Identify hazards, assess and control risks, monitor and review outcomes.

    But the application of this simple process in a specific context is where the complexity arises – the organisation shape and size, the industry, the locality, the workforce demographics and so on. And no 2 organisations are the same – even Macca’s franchises differ slightly from region to region and state to state – though they do a very good job of maintaining generic management systems.

    Even the changing gender combinations and rate of job changing, that were mentioned in other parts of the discussion, contribute to this complexity; and out of this complexity come some of the contributors to mental health risks.

    And then the types of hazards present in the Place, Plant, Process and People. It may be that industry hazards are similar from organisation to organisation but the context is still different.

    So maybe we safety people need to understand the ‘client’s’ context before we try to offer them a solution that suits us because ‘its simple’ and we’re comfortable with it.

    2: Conferences – I went to one WorkCover NSW Conference a lot of years ago and found that most of the content was either not relevant to my context at the time, or the issues I needed addressed were not covered. (same thing both ways). I decided then that I would not invest time and dollars to attend a 2 day conference when I only got useful returns on about 25% of it.
    Maybe the reasons they are not attended as regularly now as in the early years after the legislation changed is because others don’t find the content relevant either. AND I don’t think it would be easy to make a conference content relevant to all safety people, much less to business leaders who are looking for content relevant to their organisational context.

    Kevin, I liked the idea of the interactive/social approach. One of the hardest things about my time in WHS, especially when I’m the only WHS resource, has been a lack of opportunity to ‘chew the fat’ with a peer. It can be lonely at times when no-one else in the workplace speaks your language.

    3: Marketing Safety – maybe there’s a clue in the ‘coming home’ campaign – they weren’t marketing ‘safety’. They were marketing ‘coming home without injury’.

    I’m still trying to get a clear definition of ‘safety’. The closest I can get is an absence of injury or illness. But ask any 2 people what is safe and what is unsafe and you’ll get 2 different answers. If we can’t define it, how can we sell it? Can you describe to me what a safe workplace looks like?

    But everyone understands hazards and risks. And we can simply illustrate the concept with the process of crossing the road as follows:

    – Place – the road – 1, 2 or more lanes, with or without crossing, traffic lights, etc. Surface- bitumen, gravel or dirt; Day time or night time – with or without street lighting – sunny, windy, rainy;

    – Plant – the vehicles – large and small; fast and slow; 2 wheels or many wheels;

    – Process – look right, look left, look right again, if it is safe to cross then proceed. If it’s not safe then find somewhere safer. If we need to make it safer – install a crossing, or traffic lights, or a footbridge.

    – People – Adults recognise the hazards and assess the risks differently to children. Fit people can cross quicker than unfit or frail people; And adults born in Australia see the hazards and asses the risks differently to adults who grew up in Paris or Delhi.

    Maybe we need to stop trying to sell ‘safety’ and start selling ‘risk management’.

    That’s most of the things that went though my head as I listened anyway.

    1. Les, firstly, thanks for listening. It was fun to record. You can tell it is an unscripted conversation based on a handful of notes. We were talking for over an hour before we started recording!

      The Simple vs Complex issue is one that we need to keep discussing as the market ebbs and flows between the two extremes. I don’t envy safety regulators who need to publish OHS advice. You don’t want to dumb OHS down but you also don’t want to do it a disservice.

      You are right, I think, that one of the consequences of leaving prescriptive legislation behind was that each workplace generates its own control measures even though the hazard may be the same as in other workplaces. There are different business priorities, financial statuses, executive attitudes, worker attitudes…….. I think OHS professionals understand this need but the other need to generate an income from OHS advice encourages us to provide generic solutions rather than a tailored one in order to maximise the return on our time. Perhaps the OHS profession would be doing itself a favour by stressing the importance of safety rather than the complexity of safety.

      Your mention of McDonalds flashed me back to when I undertook first aid need assessments of 28 stores around the Melbourne metropolitan area in the 1990s. Fascinating exercise but remember that McCafe didn’t exist then and I lost interest in the free coffees quickly.

      On conferences, you are right that the value doesn’t always relate to the content and that the opportunity to network may be the most valuable experience. Many conference organizers seem to forget that not only is a delegate paying to attend but they are also, often, sacrificing income. This compounds the expense and emphasises the importance of value.

      I think Rob Long is way ahead of you in promoting the appreciation of risk rather than talking about safety. Taking the risk approach avoids the need to address the understanding of safety for many but I would rather keep pushing Safety instead of having to explain a new term. Even though we all may have different definitions of safety I think it is great that we all have one. This gives me something to build from.

      Les, commenting on my blog articles is a type of fat chewing. It is part of my job to not provide gristle.

      I hope to meet you one day, but not at a conference. 🙂

    2. Thanks Kevin,
      I’d like to meet you in person some day too.
      I enjoy the ‘fat’ you put up on the blog and via the Cabbage Salad and Safety podcasts. I don’t always respond but I always read/listen. I suppose my comment is based very much in relevance of the topic.

      I agree that Rob Long is way ahead of me with risk – and I agree with much of what I have read of his work – but I believe I take a less academic or ‘technical’, and more of a ‘lay language’ approach.

      1. There are some acolytes of Rob Long who are writing about Rob’s thoughts in a different and more practical way but An Idiot’s Guide to Risk would be useful. I have often thought of pitching for An Idiot’s Guide to Workplace Safety but have to earn a living.

    3. That might be a book worth writing – could be lucrative too :).
      I’d be happy to proof read/critique.
      I suggest if you have a go – don’t start from the legislative place where most do – put yourself in the shoes of a ‘worker’ and tell them what they need to know about being safe and managing risk in their role.

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