Blog in two “best of” lists

Over the last week SafetyAtWorkBlog has been included in two “best of” lists.  One, from smartcompany, is the second year in a row and the other is from a UK website that includes this blog in a list of over 70 health and safety blogs.  Readers are encouraged to look at the other blogs referenced in the articles as there are more start-ups every year both in Australia and elsewhere.  To those involved in the awards sites, many thanks.

Kevin Jones

Best Business Blogs 2017 – smartcompany

“Keeping workplace health and safety processes up to date is vital for your business, but it’s a complicated area that can sometimes be left as a secondary priority. Workplace consultant Kevin Jones continues to investigate key issues in the area in his Safety at Work blog and uses current events as a starting point for lessons for business owners. Topics covered over the past week include what effect the film Deepwater Horizon, which features the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, will have on public perceptions of health and safety.”

The 72 Top Health & Safety Blogs

“Run by Kevin Jones and based in Australia, it covers a wide range of workplace safety topics. The Australian insight is a true delight and there are topics on here that we rarely see anywhere else. It is obvious that Kevin has a wealth of knowledge on workplace safety and if you have a spare 20 minutes listen to his ‘Cabbage Salad and Safety podcast’”

 

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

The challenge of marketing workplace safety

Safe Work Australia (SWA) has formally launched National Safety Month.  National Safety Month has existed for many years and is ostensibly a marketing exercise about workplace safety. As such it is worth looking briefly at the marketing of occupational health and safety (OHS) messages.

Campaigns can work well when there is a trusted and high-profile figure to be a spokesperson for the cause and, ideally, provides a testimonial or relevant back story. OHS in Australia lacks such a person.  Safety messaging almost always comes from the heads of regulatory agencies or business leaders whose public profiles are minimal.  Some prefer low profiles and when coerced to speak in public, often when on video, have a stilted delivery that limits the appeal.

Prominent support

If National Safety Month really wants to cut through into the mainstream media or to the broadest audience, it should have a message from the current Employment Relations Minister or, even better, the Prime Minister, at least.  National politicians guarantee media attention even if the entirety of the message is not used or explained.  State safety authorities have often been successful in gaining the support of their local Minister.

(A conference organiser trick that is regularly played in Australia is that if you want the Minister to open an event, let them know that if they cannot attend, the Opposition Party’s Shadow Minister has expressed an interest. The Minister then reprioritises the event.)

It is difficult to get Ministers’ time and even harder to have them on television or online video.  People understand this inconvenience and struggle, and the effort to get the Ministers seems to add strength and authority to the issues Ministers talk about. If National Safety Month, or the various State-based events, does not have the relevant Minister speaking at an event or in support of the event, or if the month goes by without, at least, a ministerial media statement, the community can justifiably say that the Minister does not care about workplace safety, even when they have responsibility for the portfolio.

Online

Most Australian OHS regulators have an online strategy in support of National Safety Month.  Over a decade ago when these strategies were introduced, the move online was almost always because it was seen as cheaper.  The minuscule size of the audience was rationalised with “if you build it they will come”.  The supposed success of many of these online strategies has not come from the subject matter, OHS is still seen as boring or a nuisance by most.  Online OHS marketing is, like so many others, riding the wave of technological change rather than affecting change itself.

Growth and success has come from the penetration of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social media that pushes information to the audience bypassing the traditional media controllers who almost always ignored workplace safety unless there was a catastrophic disaster of multiple fatalities.

worksafe-awards-2016Media Disinterest

A minor but recent example of how the longterm media ignorance of OHS has changed media strategies is that WorkSafe Victoria offered no passes to the media for its awards night on October 7*, as it had done for most of the previous awards events.  WorkSafe seems to have become disheartened with the lack of mainstream media attention its awards received so it stopped inviting the media as a whole. The blanket exclusion is an odd decision given that WorkSafe Victoria has a strong online presence which would have been further strengthened by, at least, using the network of social media influencers.

The fact that WorkSafe Victoria has reconfigured its awards event back to an evening event and dinner is a further indication that the current WorkSafe is different from the previous incarnation under a conservative State Government.  However its difference is not new as it is more a return to what occurred in the past and what was seen as successful, just perhaps not in a media sense.  This “return to form” may reflect the expectations of the regulator, its stakeholders, the OHS profession and lobbyists but it has still failed to penetrate the editors’ interests in the next day’s newspapers.  The Herald-Sun newspaper does include a full-page ad (pictured above)about the winners but this would have been paid for.  Even so, it is a greater effort that in previous years where the ad was lucky to be a half-page.

Safety is too hard

The challenge of advertising about workplace safety is that the audience cannot buy safety; they must earn it, they must apply it, they must think about it and they must talk about it.  But largely they don’t.  It is seen as too complex and costly.  This perception has largely come through the politicisation of OHS from both extremes of politics and so OHS marketing has needed to consider the political juggling of its stakeholders, particularly when those stakeholders are embedded in the development of the safety message and the communication of the safety message through the tripartite consultative artefact, as they are in Australia.

So there are few options left available to safety regulators.  Safe Work Australia has chosen to add to the OHS body of knowledge and evidence through continuous release of reference documents and the Virtual Safety Seminars and podcasts which is the SWA’s main National Safety Month activity.  As SWA is not a safety regulatory, it has always had limited marketing opportunities so it is building a contemporary library of thought.

Most State OHS regulators continue to provide, at least, a week of free seminars and suburban and regional events using the internet largely as an administrative tool for event booking rather than a communication medium, but perhaps, SWA simply established its patch early.  And perhaps this is the most sustainable way to market workplace safety – talking face-to-face, showing new products and ideas, telling stories of what went wrong and what went right – reminding everyone that workplace safety is always about people.  After all, Australia’s most successful workplace safety ad, Homecomings, was all about the importance of people.

Kevin Jones

*SafetyAtWorkBlog enquired  with WorkSafe Victoria about media access some time ago but was advised that passes weren’t being issued and then it was too late to buy a ticket.

Cabbage Salad and Safety podcast – Episode 4

Podcasting is not always as easy as talking to a microphone or interviewing someone across a desk.  Episode 4 of the Cabbage Salad and Safety podcast that is posted online today was the third take.

Part of the challenge with podcasting is trusting that what you are saying is interesting, another part is not to talk shit.  Thankfully (we think) it was the first of these challenges that caused us to re-record.  Very few of us hear our conversations back.  Our threads of thought are usually clear to ourselves but we are unsure of how it sounds to others.  It is the difference between speaking and listening in a conversation.  Listening to what one says can be a confronting experieince.

Episode 4 uses Corr’s Mid-year Review as the launching pad for a discussion on disruption, duty of care, contractor management and my inadequacies.

The next episode will be recorded at the Safety Convention in Sydney, taking in some of the topics being presented but also including a short review of the conference.

As always, please include your comments about the podcast below or email me by clicking on my name.

Kevin Jones

Editing is an essential element of safety communication

In a comment to a recent blog article Gregor McGhee asked:

“Just out of curiosity can you recommend any books for comparison with respect to presentation, footnotes, references and endnotes?”

Most books related to occupational health and safety (OHS) are written by academics for an academic audience so there are clear referencing protocols and styles with which that readership will be familiar and comfortable.  The challenge comes when academics are asked to write for a lay audience for whom concepts must be explained and backgrounds and context provided.

But there is a similar challenge to OHS regulators who provide guidance material that often derives from academic research but also for the legalities of safety legislation.  SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to talk with Jackie McAdam, a freelance editor, designer and writer who has worked for the UK’s OHS regulator, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Format and Language

In Carsten Busch’s book, he chooses to use endnotes for references but an ABC system for footnotes. This non-conformity is part of the reason the book is a challenging read.Dust jacket 3.3 13.12.01

NIOSH has a program of Research to Practice (R2P) where research grants are given, or work commissioned, on the understanding that the research will also be “translated” into a format and language that allows for the research findings to be applied in the real world.  NIOSH says it:

“…..collaborates with partners and stakeholders to:

  • Identify needs
  • Design, plan, and conduct studies or evaluate technologies into workplace policy, procedure, technology, and/or practice
  • Communicate and transfer NIOSH policy, procedure, or practices to relevant users for implementation in the workplace
  • Evaluate or demonstrate the impact of these efforts on improving worker safety and health.”

Focussing on the communication element of the program fits with the OHS principle of consultation (although the whole R2P program is really consultation) with particular attention to the reader and audience.  NIOSH has provided an excellent roadmap guidebook to assist writing research in this “new” way.

For more practical advice on the style of writing, governments often publish style guides or manuals.  Australia has published such a book for fifty years and the recent 2002 edition remains a mandatory read for most government policy writers.  The American Chemical Society publishes a guide of its own.

The UK Experience – Jackie McAdam

210a64fJackie, can you provide readers with a bit of background of your work with the HSE?

I have worked with HSE on and off since 2005 as both an editor and a designer. It’s important to clarify that these are my thoughts as an individual, but I do have a lot of experience and knowledge of how HSE operates and what the organization deems as important.

Early projects I worked on (which are still available online) include COSHH essentialsAsbestos Essentials and leaflets such as  Working with substances hazardous to health: A brief guide to COSHH.

Who does HSE believe its audience to be? Business owners? OHS Professionals? Consultants? Or All of these?

HSE is well aware that OHS professionals use our guidance and information as a valuable resource, but our editorial style guide emphasises the need to use plain English to make publications accessible to workers and management too.

COSHH essentials, for example, has an initial sheet in each series aimed at managers, but the remaining sheets are intended to be used by everyone. A lot of guidance includes safety checklists for workers to make sure they are protecting themselves.

Despite the view of the UK in some respects as a nanny state, it’s important the workers take responsibility for actions that could put themselves and their workmates in danger. As an organisation, HSE does a lot of work with stakeholders to establish what happens in practice in the workplace. It’s all very well providing a perfect scenario, but that doesn’t happen in real life, and it’s about taking measures that are reasonably practicable and not coming up with a solution that’s disproportionate to the level of risk. I think that’s why our recent strategy events [#HelpGBWorkWell] were so successful at getting feedback from so many stakeholders. [link added]

How important is it to refer to previous editions of OHS documents or should each edition be considered brand new?

We try to discourage links directly to PDF documents in our publications, as the landing page gives vital information on what has changed since the previous version. It could be a change to the law, but sometimes we have just updated some of the references. Even if that information isn’t on the landing page, it should be on the first page of the document so read that first, it isn’t just sales blurb.

What are the most common criticisms of safety guidances from readers?

I don’t always get that feedback directly but I know that it’s crucial that we work with industry experts to get our facts and our language right. HSE’s long-term belief that plain English is crucial to making guidance easy to access has recently become the mantra of www.GOV.UK in marketing  its ‘digital-by-default’ approach. You mentioned Australia’s style manual, I haven’t read it yet, but if you want to compare notes you could check out Gov.UK’s style guide at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/content-design/writing-for-gov-uk.

There has been evidence that peer pressure prevents workers even reading guidance, so making sure it’s relevant to the target audience is top of the list. That’s about the way it reads, the way it looks and how it’s marketed.

How much “translation” is required and has this amount lessened over your experience?

As an editor with no specialist knowledge in health and safety, or the type of hazards we deal with, I have to check with my authors that I’ve understood the gist of what they are trying to convey before I edit their text. They get to approve every change to make sure I haven’t changed the meaning. My job is essentially to translate the technical jargon into something the person on the street can understand. Occasionally HSE has to use some technical language, but technical doesn’t mean academic; academic styles of writing can put people off. They simply don’t think it’s aimed at them.

I’ve also been asked to ‘translate’ the findings of research reports. For example, RR558 – Taking risks with asbestos: What influences the behaviour of maintenance workers? by the Institute for Employment Studies discusses worksite culture and the reasons that workers don’t recognize themselves as being at risk from asbestos.  The report mentioned a greater concern for others than themselves, so I used language to remind them that the risks they took could affect their workmates or family to try and bring about behaviour change.

Did the HSE MythBusters program affect the writing style or strategy?

To be honest, no! When you work at HSE, you quickly realise how crazy some of these myths are. HSE’s line hasn’t changed, but Myth Busters was one way to get the public, and companies, to recognize when HSE was being used as a scapegoat for someone else’s over-cautious approach.

You mention in your review of Carsten Busch’s Safety Myth 101 that Carsten describes a Safety Culture that has been so misused that it has become a meaningless buzzword in many circumstances. There can be no doubt that this is the case, HSE’s press office is quick to rebut any over-the-top reporting of ‘elf ‘n’ safety gone mad’. Most of this in the UK tends to be in the tabloid press whereas I’ve noticed a change over the years towards more accurate reporting by agencies like the BBC.

Does HSE still produce hard copy editions of publications and guidances?

Not as many as we used to, but yes we do sometimes still print publications if there is enough demand for a printed version.

What about the future of OHS communications?

The future is digital – mostly. Yes, we will still print some publications, but like all things these days, it’s now about the immediacy of social media, responsive communications that can be read on the go on your smartphone rather than opening a book. Everyone expects the answer to any question to be readily available, and OHS is no exception. Essentially, we all want an app that can do that – and there is, for some things. Check out HSE’s asbestos app

When I’m asked what an editor does, which is a surprisingly common question, I do sometimes have to remind myself of how important our role is. We don’t write the stuff, necessarily, but we do make it readable by the right audience.

What about language that just doesn’t really tell you anything, but is just bluster and padding? Politicspeak, jargon, gobbledegook.*

One of the main jobs of an editor is to get rid of all that. Yes, we also make the text consistent, it doesn’t just read better, but it’s easier to follow; you set a precedent at the beginning of the text and you follow it through. We correct the grammar, obviously, but we also make the text make sense! OHS guidance could probably never be called a good read, but it doesn’t have to be a complicated one.

I am not sure that this answers Gregor McGhee’s question as the books mentioned above are not straight comparisons with Busch’s Safety Myths book.  In some ways any safety book from a reputable and established publisher should illustrate the structure and protocols required.  One of my points and why I contacted Jackie McAdam was to emphasise the importance of an editor in any work.

It is useful that Jackie is a graphic designer as well as an editor as this allows her to picture the end result as well as the information contained.  Also she points out the crucial importance of communicating with the writers or source content providers to ensure you don’t misrepresent ideas in the translation from the technical to the readable.

Recently I spoke with Dr Rob Long when he was working through the proofs to his latest book , “Risky Conversations” and he was frustrated with the editing process required but also impressed by the complexity of editing.  Editing is a skill and a trade and one that is becoming less common as more and more of the text production tools become readily available.  But in most circumstances editing will still be a requirement even if it is to provide that final polish to a product or book.

Of course, like workplace safety, the best results come from having this role as early in the creativity and production processes as possible. Engaging an editor early in a project educates that editor on the text’s context, aim and point and builds a collaboration which avoids, mostly, a deadline panic, which can be an occupational hazard for all writers.

Kevin Jones

*[gobbledygook ˈɡɒb(ə)ldɪˌɡuːk,-ˌɡʊk/

noun, informal

noun: gobbledegook

language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of technical terms.]

Risky Conversations – enlightening and confusing

Recently SafetyAtWorkBlog reviewed a safety book of terrific content but poor presentation.  Last week  received an Australian book which presented different issues.  “Risky Conversations – The Law, Social Psychology and Risk” has been written by Dr Robert Long, lawyer Greg Smith and consultant Craig Ashhurst and is the fifth in a series of books about risk. The title is accurate as the book is essentially a transcript of conversations between the authors but reading is complicated by videos of these conversations also being available on-line through a password available to purchasers of the book.  The authors seem to have tried to do too much with the information they have.

Format and Marketing

Freelance writers in this new world of computer technology and social media are advised to maximise their media opportunities when attending a conference or interviewing someone.  An interview can be recorded for its video and its audio.  The interview could be photographed and the audio could be transcribed.  All of these formats can come from a single interview.  It seems that Long, Smith and Ashhurst have followed these opportunities by writing a book and producing videos of a three-way conversation recorded over several days but why offer both media formats to the book’s purchasers, when the information is the same?  Why incur the cost of videoing a conversation that could have been conducted over a teleconference?

One reason may be that Long is much in demand as a speaker at conferences and an adviser to companies that are looking for a fresh way to look at safety management, and he cannot be everywhere.  Andrew Hopkins undertook a similar option when he partnered with FutureMedia in the wake of his successful book on the Longford disaster.

The package of information may be confusing but is the content of the book any good?  Reading transcripts can be difficult, even edited and cleaned transcripts as are found in this book.  Interview transcripts are usually easy because there are only two voices, including the interviewer, the thread of the conversation is clear and the format is familiar.  This book’s transcripts are more difficult to follow even though there is a good amount of facilitation and the conversation diversions are minimised.  The book hopes to get its own tone after a while but never seems to establish its own personality.

The information in the videos is a little easier to follow as the three voices are represented visually.  The viewer hears the three personalities and accepts the three perspectives.  The book tries to unify or harmonise the voices, or perhaps it is the mind of the readers that does this, but reading the book requires a great deal of attention.

The previous safety book referenced above, written by Carsten Busch, had an enormous amount of footnotes and references.  The level of detail was appreciated but the book format did not seem to suit it.  Long, Smith & Ashhurst prefer annotations to footnotes and this book reads better for it. The annotations sometimes explain a concept where an explanation in the conversations would have interrupted the flow.  Sometimes they include hyperlinks for more information.  These are not quite text boxes but they are reminiscent of the boxes used so successfully in the Dummies series, though without the bomb symbols and thumbs-up.  Annotations allow for the reader to leave reading these until chapter ends or the whole book.

Another advantage is the format required for annotations also leaves plenty of space for the reader to include their own annotations.

Wickedity?

Sometimes the book sounds like a panel discussion of three academics who are very enthusiastic about the topic.  And it is easy to have this wash over the reader.  But annotations help pull this back to attention.  For instance, Long encourages Ashhurst to talk about “Wicked Problems”, the apparent topic of Ashhurst’s PhD.  The annotation provides a brief explanation:

“The idea of ‘wickedity’ and ’emergence’ are critical concepts for understanding dialectic and paradox in tackling risk.

The very act of seeking certainty and control by fallible people for things that are uncertain sets the scene for fascinating interacts between the known and the unknown.” (page 14)

Wickedity may be a new and useful concept but the outline is not helped by creating doubt in the reader’s capability by using a verb – interact – as a noun.  This forces the reader to reread the sentence to interpret something that should have been pretty clear on the first read through.

One paper that mentions wickedity reports that

“Rittel and Webber (1973) introduced the notion of wicked problems in the context of urban planning where such issues as safety, aesthetics and ease of movement within a given space represent just a few of the more intractable and unique daily challenges facing urban planners.”

The application of concepts from one discipline to another is a major tool of the occupational health and safety consultant and can provide new understandings but wickedity, even as it is expanded upon later in the book, seems to be short hand for multifactorial considerations.  The concept is not new but the shortcut is.

Is it any good?

This article has not discussed the content of the book as much as was intended.  Partly this is because the book covers so many interesting topics.  Partly it is because so many of the conversations seem to require a good knowledge of the books that have come before.

One of the options for purchasing this book is as part of a package of five books and this is an attractive option for those coming to Long’s work for the first time.  In some ways this book is like a favourite trilogy. You read each book wanting the next and when the next one comes, you want the pleasure of reading the first book again.  Risky Conversations took me back to the first book which still holds the revelations about risk that the current book discusses.

Sometimes articles based on books reveal a great deal of content and identify the dominant themes.  I have struggled with this article because while reading the book I felt like I was intruding on a discussion of peers or a study group.  The discussion is intriguing but I was from listening from outside the circle or even listening in at the window.   Perhaps it has been too long since I studied and immersed myself in the academic rather than working in the real world of applying safety, selling safety and being as creative as I can within the organisational structures I work within.

Rob Long, especially, needs to keep communicating his ideas and this book is a great addition to anyone’s safety library.  By including other voices in this book, he is showing that others have embraced his thoughts and are pushing them in new directions, sometimes bizarre ones.  His books deserve careful consideration or, even better, to generate discussions.  It seems his thoughts demand explanation, refinement, expansion and challenge.  In a way this is reflected in Risky Conversations.

Kevin Jones

Podcast tackles Safety Culture

Cabbage Salad BannerThe latest episode of the Cabbage Salad and Safety podcast is now available and includes a discussion on the perennial occupational health and safety (OHS) debate over Safety Culture.

Siobhan Flores-Walsh and I discuss the role of safety culture and its influence on contemporary safety management.  The definition is fluffy and this is part of the challenge in improving a company’s safety culture.  I think the podcast episode is a useful primer on the issue to those who are just making contact with the concept and of interest to those of us who are already dealing with safety culture and people’s expectations for it.

Cabbage Salad and Safety podcasts are changing all the time and we read all the feedback and comments that listeners have emailed in. Please have a listen and email me your thoughts for future episodes or please comment below if you prefer.

 

Kevin Jones

“Cabbage Salad and Safety” podcast launched

KJ SFH HeadshotIt has been my intention for many years to establish a conversational podcast with a workplace safety lawyer. The opportunity to pitch the idea occurred earlier this year and the first episode of Cabbage Salad and Safety is now available.

Siobhan Flores-Walsh of Corrs Chambers Westgarth (pictured right with the author) was the lucky lawyer and she has been enormously supportive also providing the recording equipment, personnel and opportunity. Continue reading ““Cabbage Salad and Safety” podcast launched”

Two ABC radio broadcasts on OHS

Dolly Parton sang about working 9 to 5, asked “what a way to make a living” and asserted that it would drive you crazy if you let it.  Many workers would look on a shift of only 9 to 5 as a luxury.  ABC Radio in Brisbane played this song as an introduction to a series of radio interviews about workplace safety in which myself and Professor Niki Ellis participated on 9 May 2016.

Curiously the interview, part of their The Juggle series, occurs in the Drive time slot of 4pm to 6pm but the discussion was almost all about occupational health and safety  (OHS) in the office environment.  If 9 to 5 still exists anywhere, the audience for office safety information was busy.  It would have been interesting to talk about OHS and work vehicles. Continue reading “Two ABC radio broadcasts on OHS”

“We want to build this OHS safety army”

Luke Hilakari 20160225Luke Hilakari became the Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) in late 2014.  He has spoken at the 2015 Workers’ Memorial ceremony and in February 2016 he launched a new campaign focussing on occupational health and safety (OHS). Continue reading ““We want to build this OHS safety army””