a spotlight on the human aspects of accident prevention

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Welcome to the safetymindblog

The safetymindblog aims to shine a spotlight on the human aspects of accident prevention.

At Safety Mind, we take a particular interest in what causes people to make mistakes, fail to comply with rules and develop habits that increase their risk of having accidents or injuries.  That makes us equally interested in what people can do to make fewer mistakes, become better at rule compliance and develop the good habits that keep themselves and others safe.

We provide a mixture of current thinking, informative articles and discussion topics through these blog posts.  We hope you find the blog informative and thought-provoking and would welcome your comments.


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The “Nut Island Effect” on safety

Blog 11aThe phrase “nut island effect” was coined by Paul F Levy, head of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) and became widely known when he published a paper about it in the Harvard Business Review in 2001.  Nut Island is a 5 acre small island in Boston Harbour that was used from 1952 onwards as the site for a sewage treatment facility, until it was decommissioned in 1997.  It was run by a dedicated team that worked in isolation, doing a complex but important job, and who were ignored by management, until things went wrong.  Continue reading

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When hierarchy can be bad for safety

Every organisation, no matter how democratic its culture is, has a hierarchy and a management structure in place, as this is necessary to define roles and responsibilities.  People need to know who’s in charge and who makes decisions.  No organisation can function without a hierarchy.

However, organisations that depend on having a good safety culture for their day-to-day operations cannot survive solely on a hierarchical mind-set in the long-term.  Ultimately, the lack of flexibility in depending only on one style of management will cripple an organisation when an unexpected crisis occurs. Continue reading

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The behavioural safety approach

Any injury or loss of life caused by accidents is both tragic and avoidable.  In the oil and gas industry, the Piper Alpha disaster is one of the more well-known incidents where safety was compromised in multiple areas – in their systems, processes and in human behaviour.  More recent incidents such as the Costa Concordia ferry disaster highlight especially the effect that human error can have on the safety of crew and passengers.  Continue reading

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Dealing with constant change in the interest of improving safety

Over the last 100 years or so, life has changed rapidly, compared to the many centuries before that.  These days, the only thing that anyone is sure about is that things are always changing.

This is especially true in the workplace, especially where there are rapid and regular upgrades in technology, information processing and staff turnover.  Improvements to safety are also taking place at the same time and workers are constantly being trained and re-trained to cope with these changes on a regular basis. Continue reading

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Check lists – who needs them?

Have you flown on holiday recently?  Travelled to work by helicopter?  You may have noticed that your pilot and co-pilot always follow pre-flight check lists, no matter how experienced they are.  The simple process of checking off everything that needs to be done and having someone else confirm each step eliminates, or at least greatly reduces, the risk of human error.

In the offshore workplace, what is your hazard/risk check list and who cross-checks it with you?  How good are your personal hazard-spotting and risk-management tools and do you use them every time you start work?

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A learning culture or a blame culture?

Signs of a Learning Culture Signs of a Blame Culture
Everyone is encouraged and feels motivated to report their safety concerns People who report are seen as troublemakers
People receive feedback and are commended for bringing risks to management’s attention  People are  blamed or held accountable for creating the risks in the first place
Procedures are clear and simple and have been developed in consultation with the workforce Too many rules and procedures, complex and difficult to follow, no workforce involvement
If you want to improve safety culture, consider asking your workforce for their views – is the perception that the safety culture is biased towards learning or blame?