Managing safety on a high risk TV program

Roger Graham (left) and Todd Sampson talking safety

Todd Sampson has created a niche in Australian television by challenging himself in mental and physical tasks.  His latest program is “Life on the Line“. What is intriguing about this type of TV program is how occupational health and safety (OHS) is managed in a way that does not impede the aim of the show.

SafetyAtWorkBlog spent some time with the safety adviser on the show, Roger Graham, to better understand the demands of advising film and TV productions on workplace safety.  The exclusive interview is below.

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Free online safety conference – RTW Summit

Recently I recorded my contribution  to an online conference called the RTW Summit.  This conference is first to Australia although other organisations have proposed such a format previously but never eventuated.

The conference has been devised and organised by Mark Stipic, a young Return To Work professional who started a podcast recently.  He is intelligent and one of those people who is not afraid to take risks in the emerging world of social media.

Continue reading “Free online safety conference – RTW Summit”

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

Truth, justice and the safe way

Many years ago the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) won a WorkSafe Victoria award for a colouring in book.  From memory the book depicted construction work so that children could understand what their parents do while the kids are at school.  Since that time many companies have produced safety calendars from children’s drawings and train companies have created safety jingles and animated videos about decapitation.  On 28 October WorkSafeACT launched a comic book about Hazardman.

Dr Rob Long rips the campaign to shreds in a blog article,concluding with

“It is amazing that the Regulator can impose this indoctrination campaign on the school system and now we learn that Safe Work Australia is going to roll it out throughout Australia. Fantastic, what a wonderful way to prepare our children and inoculate them against the realities of risk.” Continue reading “Truth, justice and the safe way”

WorkSafe Victoria tries humour in safety advertising

For the last few weeks WorkSafe Victoria has been running new injury prevention advertisements based on a game show theme of playing the odds on injuring a worker.  The curiosity of this campaign is that humour and a little bit of shame has been employed to communicate.

It is refreshing for an OHS regulator to use humour in the aim of improving workplace safety particularly as this attempt avoids the slapstick humour that has been tried in the past by several safety organisations.  Workplace injuries are not a laughing matter but a gentle humour can be used to prick the conscience of those who have safety obligations.

Conversations with OHS peers on these ads has shown a perplexity over these ads.  Those who have established a public face or a reputation in the safety field are unsure whether laughing or, at the least, being amused is appropriate.  There is a fine line between mockery and amusement so hesitation is understandable. Continue reading “WorkSafe Victoria tries humour in safety advertising”

Video interviews with four safety professionals

Last week at the Safety In Action Trade Show I participated in a live web interview on safety.  The video of my interview is available below.  Many thanks to Digicast for making this and other OHS videos available.

Other video interviews are available with:

  • Dr Angelica Vecchio-Sadus- HSE Leader at CSIRO Process Science and Engineering.
  • Marilyn Hubner – Workplace Learning and Development Specialist at the National Safety Council of Australia
  • John Lacey, Video President IOSH & CEO Lincsafe

Kevin Jones

WorkSafe Victoria missteps on its venture with “Candid Camera” approach

WorkSafe Victoria has released a video of an experiment that shows that people will undertake unsafe acts if asked to do so.  This video is part of the OHS regulator’s campaign to increase focus on the OHS obligations of supervisors but it has generated serious complaints from safety professionals and advocates.

WorkSafe Victoria has been advised that the video sends “mixed messages” about electrical safety.  Safety professionals have decried that the video is meant to be funny with its jaunty whistling soundtrack yet it shows an apprentice pretending to receive a shock.  One participant giggles when she realises it is a joke, in the same way people are relieved after being “punk’d” or laugh after seeing the “candid camera” even though their participation was alarming.  The video has been described as a “stunt” that fails to illustrate the serious consequences of the action of handling live electric cables. Continue reading “WorkSafe Victoria missteps on its venture with “Candid Camera” approach”

There is a whiff of media manipulation on recent allegations of bullying at WorkSafe Victoria

WorkSafe Victoria has been heavily criticised in the media over recent days about “revelations” of workplace bullying within the authority, a government authority that has the role of regulating workplace safety, a role that includes reducing the risk of bullying.

It would be easy to only look at the newspaper articles of this week but the issue has been bubbling away for some time.  WorkSafe has always struggled with addressing workplace bullying in its own staff, the community and other government agencies.  But this is not unique.  A 2010 report on bullying in the Victorian public sector showed a high incidence of workplace bullying across the public service going back to 2005.  What makes the WorkSafe situation different is that the hazard of workplace bullying is being alleged in the organisation who should know best how to control it.

The Age has reported previously on bullying in the public service previously in 2005.  The Age reported then that

“The Government’s own research, based on a survey of 14,000 public sector workers, found that more than one in five had been bullied or harassed by colleagues or managers in the past year. A further 40 per cent had witnessed others being abused.”

Karen Batt, a long-serving State Secretary of the Community & Public Sector Union (CPSU), has been outspoken on workplace bullying every time the matter has been raised in survey reports and the media for many years.  The recent Age articles quote her extensively and The Age’s publisher, Fairfax, has even posted recent audio of Batt’s opinions.

But it is important to ask why the issue of workplace bullying at WorkSafe has reappeared, now,  in late September 2011. Continue reading “There is a whiff of media manipulation on recent allegations of bullying at WorkSafe Victoria”

Memorial forest for people killed and injured at work

Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson, a frequent commentator at SafetyAtWorkBlog and prominent advocate on behalf of injured workers, led the Workers’ Memorial Day walk in Adelaide, South Australia today.  She was instrumental in the establishment of a memorial garden in the state capital and explains the reasons for the garden and the significance of the garden in the video below.

All speakers on OHS conference video should have been identified

The Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) has released a post Safety In Action conference video of vox-pops.  It’s mentioned in this blog as the editor, Kevin Jones, is included for several comments towards the end.

The intention of the video is to promote the next conference by reflecting on the previous.  This is a useful marketing tool that is not hard to create and, at face value, is informative, as far as it goes.

A major inconsistency or omission is that only a couple of speakers are identified.  This should not usually be an issue but several of the speakers should have been identified as committee members of the Safety Institute, these include:

  • The Vice President of the ACT Committee of Management
  • A committee member from Victoria
  • the current President of INSHPO and a former SIA National President.

There is no reason for some speakers to be identified and others not.  Identification of all speakers allows the viewer to filter between delegates who attend for professional development and those delegates who have a vested interest in promoting the conference.

The conference, as a whole, was better than expected and the vox-pops reflect that but the promotional video would have gained more authority by having all the speakers identified.

Kevin Jones