Encore webinar series

The impact of safety leadership in preventing MSDs
Presented by: Anna Clarkson, Pyschologist, Sentis Pty Ltd
Presented on: 14 June 2018

The right safety leadership can have a significant impact on the behaviours of individual workers and the broader safety culture. In this webinar, Anna Clarkson, Psychologist, Sentis Pty Ltd, provides some insights into research that examines employee perceptions of their leaders. She outlines strategies for recognising and rewarding the safety behaviours needed to improve safety within an organisation. Anna’s career has been dedicated to bringing out the best in individuals and organisations within Australia, and around the world.

Download a copy of this film (ZIP/MP4, 104MB)

Read transcript

The impact of safety leadership in preventing MSDs

Presented by: Anna Clarkson, Pyschologist, Sentis Pty Ltd

Presented on: 14 June 2018

We're very fortunate that a number of our presenters from the symposium have kindly made themselves available to present their presentation again, and we thank them all very much for doing so.

I'll now introduce Anna Clarkson, today's presenter. Anna Clarkson is a clinical psychologist and a principal consultant with Sentis. Sentis is a safety consulting firm which partners with organizations in Australia and around the world to improve their performance through building a safer, more engaged, and aligned workforce. Their focus is on applying psychological knowhow to shift attitudes so that workers are engaging with safety because they want to and not because they have to.

Through this work, Anna enjoys helping organizations understand their safety culture, build safety leadership capacity, and develop individual personal motivation to engage in safety. She's pleased today to share some of Sentis's international research on safety culture and safety leadership, which gives us some powerful insights into how we might better lead everyone home safely and prevent MSDs.

So I'll now hand it over to Anna and we'll get started. Thank you.

Anna Clarkson:

Thank you, Suzanne and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, for having me. It's a great opportunity to share again some really interesting research on the state of safety leadership around the world, so that we can learn a little bit more about what works in driving safety performance and where our areas of opportunity are to develop a stronger leadership capacity in our organization, so that we can prevent those musculoskeletal injuries.

The research that I'm sharing with you is available for free in our eBook, on our website. So please feel welcome to download that eBook. Once we finish the presentation, I'll show you the link of where to find it.

Before I jump into the research, let's set the scene as to why investigating safety leadership is so important. Our experience, working with organisations over the last few decades, tells us that workplaces have done some really good work actually in improving their environmental controls and developing safe work practices for employees to follow. And this has led to a substantial reduction in the number of incidents that are occurring out there.

However, whilst has been a downwards trend in the number of incidents, people are still getting hurt at work. And many organizations describe their safety performance as leveling out and perhaps hitting a bit of a plateau. So many leaders tell us that they're scratching their heads wondering kind of why this is happening and why they can't get that last percentage of people on board and working safely and preventing that smaller percentage of injuries that are still occurring, particularly, when they are investing so well in the safety management system and are telling their employees what to do to work safely.

So, what is the missing link? If we're investing well in our environment and we're investing well in our practices, how come we have hit that safety plateau? What is missing in our investments so far? Well, we would argue that it's an investment in people, in the way they think, the decisions they make, their engagement and their capacity to influence others.

We know that over 90% of incidents are caused, at least in part, by the decision a person makes at the time that actually puts them at risk. So, let's explore briefly how that person factor works and what this has to do with leadership.

Here we have a basic psychological model, which explains why we get certain results in life. And it's called the ABA Model. It's nice and simple. We all hold attitudes about things in life, about our job, our boss, or family, and about safety. And those thoughts and feelings then inspire certain behaviors. Now, those behaviors then contribute to the results that we get.

So take the example of someone's attitudes towards risk assessments. If someone believes that risk assessments were tools they can use to invest in their safety, then they're much more likely, when they're doing that risk assessment to be engaged in looking around for hazards and planning the controls to put in place. Now, as a result, they're much more likely to reduce the level of risk in that task. So, for example, if believe that I'm pushing or pulling a trolley, which has some heavy equipment on it, and in fact that equipment is too heavy for my back, for my load, then I'll get some other mechanical aids to support or get some other people to do that task more safely.

If, however, the worker believes that the risk assessments are a waste of time, they're just their to cover their bosses' backside, then we probably say that was a fairly hindering attitude towards safety. And in this case, the worker is more likely to engage in that risk assessment as a bit of a tick and flick exercise, which means they may miss the fact that the load on that trolley has increased and there's a potential increase in the risk to their back by pushing or pulling that trolley alone. So this means that they are much more likely to have an increased risk of a muscular strain or an injury, which is pretty bad result.

Now, what role does the leader play in influencing the attitudes and behaviours and, in fact, the results of their team? Well, of course, it's quite significant. The safety climate of a team is very much linked to the quality of safety leadership. Let's see how this works. We'll contrast two styles of leadership.

Imagine the impact of leader A, who takes the time to look at and recognize quality risk assessments, versus leader B, who puts them in a pile somewhere just to collect dust. Now, if I pay little attention to the risk assessments, what attitude does that role model to my team? Probably the risk assessments aren't terribly important.

Imagine the impact of leader A, who voices regularly why risk assessments are worthwhile and how that can help us to get home to our families, in contrast to leader B, who tells his staff to do the risk assessment because they have a quota that we have to make to get our bonuses.

So imagine how these two different leaders affect their teams' attitudes towards safety. Clearly, leader A is going to drive safer attitudes and behaviours through their role modelling and explanation of why the safety processes in a business are important, rather than leader B, who is more likely to see a higher level of risk in their team.

Leadership is a critical component of the overall safety culture. Leaders have really the biggest influence on the attitudes and behaviours that each person in their workforce holds towards both the environment and the safe work practices. So as a part of the total investment in safety culture leadership, of course, is really critical.

Now, just as a point of reflection, perhaps it's worth thinking for yourself where is your organisation investing most of your efforts. Is it in the environment, in the practices? Is it in the personal attitudes and motivations of your staff? Or is it in leadership.

Now, if like many organisations we speak to, they're investing heavily in the practices and environment part, now is a good opportunity to reflect on how you may better invest in your people and your leadership.

So we've set the scene for why leadership is important. It drives the attitudes and behaviours that deliver safer results. Let's now learn more about the research we did on the state of safety leadership in Australia and around the world.

In this project, we looked at the dataset of over 8,000 employees around the world to determine trends in how employees perceive their leaders. And this gives us some useful information about the state of safety leadership and where we ought to focus our learning and development activities.

In the study, we asked employees about their perceptions of their leaders. So whilst we didn't observe these leaders in the field ourselves, it's important to note that the employees' perception of their leader is in fact their reality. We analysed certified results of staff who completed our Safety Climate Survey, which is part of a diagnostic we do around safety culture in our client organisations around the world, in Africa, Australia, USA, Middle East, et cetera. And you can see here, the dataset has a pretty good representation of many high-risk industries, including agriculture, mining, industrial services, manufacturing, et cetera.

As part of our Safety Climate Survey, employees were asked to rate their leaders on eight safety leadership competencies. You can see them there in the slide. And these have been derived from the literature about what leadership behaviours drive a high-performing safety culture. So they are recognizing, actively caring, collaborating, demonstrating a safety vision, inspiring the team to follow them, role modelling, challenging, and supporting.

In this next slide, you can see a definition of the different competencies. So we've got challenging, which is about challenging team members to think about safety issues and scenarios differently. So the classic question here is: is there a better insightful way for us to do that task?

Vision, of course, is sharing the safety goals with the team. Recognizing is about rewarding employees based on the achievement of high safety performance. Supporting means that we're providing active monitoring of safety performance and compliance to safety standards. Collaborating means we're seeking input and using the expertise of our team, when we're making safety decisions. Inspiring is about inspiring the team to achieve the vision, so getting some followership within our team and getting a personal reason for why it's worth investing in safety.

Role modelling is about, of course, walking the talk, and actively caring is about not only caring about employees, but actively showing that you care through your conversations with them, by tailoring the safety message to the individuals in your team, et cetera.

So now it's time to reflect on your experience. And we're going to do a quick multi-choice poll. We're going to ask you to consider which of the following do you feel is the biggest area of strength in safety leaders around the world, and thinking about those eight leadership competencies. So we have a multiple choice polling question there for you to consider which do you think to be the biggest area of strength in safety leadership around the world. Recognising, role modelling, showing active care, or perhaps challenging staff to think different about safety?

So I'll give you a moment to put in your responses because we'd love to hear what you expect the research to tell us.

I'll just give you a few moments to fill out that poll and we'll get the results and I will feed that back to you.

I can see those answers coming in. Thank you.

All right, we'll close up that poll.

We'll just get those results for you in a moment.

Speaker 3:

Role modelling 33. Recognising 22. No answer 23. Active caring [inaudible 00:14:12]

Anna Clarkson:

Great, thank you so much for participating in our poll. So the results are that 33% of you thought that role modelling would be the strongest safety leadership competency around the world. And that makes a lot of sense because that's one of those kind of practical things, isn't it, that we do to demonstrate good safety leadership is to walk the talk. So I'm not surprised by your answer there. That makes sense to me.

Followed closely by 22% of you who thought recognising would be the strongest safety leadership competency, followed by 15% thinking active care was, and then finally, 15% thought challenging was. So that's really interesting. I'm going to share with you what the research told us were the highest competencies, in a moment, but let's just keep that thought in mind that we thought that role modelling was probably the highest competency around the world.

So let's do a second poll. And this one, I would like you to think about here is what do you see as being the biggest area of opportunity for safety leaders around the world? So which one are they likely to score lowest on? Again, the same four are presented for you, to choose because recognising, role modelling, active care, and challenging. And your answers will be recorded in the poll. Thank you for participating. I'd love to hear your feedback.

Speaker 3:

[inaudible 00:16:59]

Anna Clarkson:

All right, so we've got the results of the polling. It sounds as though most of you believe that the highest area of opportunity for leaders is to demonstrate active care, followed by challenging their staff, followed by role modelling, and then the last one you thought was recognising. That's really interesting. Let's keep that in mind. So you thought the strength for leaders is role modelling and the area of opportunity is active care. Great.

So this is just now a question for you to consider yourself. You're welcome to talk in the Q & A area what you believe to be the answer to this question. Otherwise, just answer it yourself. So I'm going to ask you to think about what percentage of leaders out there around the world do you feel strongly demonstrate safety leadership? What percentage?

Well, our research results reveal that only one in four leaders demonstrates strong safety leadership. And so, when considering both upwards ratings from employees, so the employees rating their direct leader, as well the leader rating themselves, we found about 25% of leaders were demonstrating strong safety leadership. So this means that we have an opportunity here to greatly improve our safety leadership, and in doing so, lift that safety [inaudible 00:18:38] that so many organisations are concerned about.

So to get a sense of where we should be spending our time when investing in leadership, let's look at the overall breakdown of results. So let's see how well leaders are doing across each of the eight safety leadership competencies. And that way we know which competencies we can further strengthen and which need more investment in our learning and development initiatives.

Now, the first thing to take stop off here is how positive or negative the perceptions are of leader overall. So you can see the three colour bands here. If leaders are scoring in the red zone, it's a negative perception, in the orange zone, a fair perception, and in the green zone, a positive perception. So where do we see most of the competencies being rated? Well, as you can see, it's in that orange zone. So leaders are perceived by their staff as showing fair levels of safety leadership. They lead strongly some of the time is the key descriptor here.

So this means that either their particular skills within that competency that leaders aren't very confident or competent in delivering, or perhaps it's an inconsistent delivery of those skills. So there's an opportunity here to coach leaders to be more skilful and be more consistent in their application of the safety leadership competencies.

Now, the second thing to learn from this graph is which competencies are rated as relative strengths or relative opportunities. Now, you said in our poll, the competency that most leaders would perform better at was role modelling. And yet, our research showed actually the strength was active care. So that's a bit contrary to your expectation because you actually thought that would be probably the biggest area of opportunity.

So this is a bit of a surprising result for us, isn't it? It's counterintuitive. I think that's what's so interesting about this research is that it gives us data that we didn't necessarily anticipate. And that's the beauty of doing studies like this.

So looking at the colour band in here, we can see that leaders are seen as genuinely caring for their teams, at least to some extent. And I'm heartened, at least, that our leaders out there are seen to be caring for their teams because that's a really great starting point because we can't really fake that very well. But a word of caution here, just because we care, it doesn't mean that we have the tools to demonstrate that care effectively and to utilize that care to lead a team towards safe work and to challenge each other on our attitudes and recognize when we're doing well.

Now, let's speak about the elephant in the room, the big red result there. This represents the lowest scoring safety leadership competency, which you thought actually would be active care. Now, in fact, it was recognising, and now this is the one that you felt probably would be okay. So this tells us that out of all of the leadership competencies, leaders apply the skill of recognising positive safety performance the least. Now, that's quite surprising.

We thought this was a really curious finding and not probably expected. So we started to ask more questions about this result. So the first question we asked was did it matter where the organisation was located in the world. So for example, the differences between countries, which might be explained by cultural expectations or something.

So, having a look at the trends there, you can see actually no, most countries are following the same pattern of safety leadership. Whilst there's some differences between countries, overall, the pattern is pretty universal, isn't it? And in particular, if you have a look at the result for recognising, it's universally the lowest performing competency, which is really interesting. And active caring is universally pretty much the highest competency.

So, okay, so location doesn't explain the result. Let's have a look at industry breakdown. So we asked ourselves: did it matter what industry the employee was in because perhaps people have different cultures based on the industry they work in?

Now, again, we looked at the pattern of results and whilst some industries may be performing slightly differently than others in terms of their safety leadership, overall, the trend is the same. So universally, across industry, recognizing is still, by far, the lowest rated competency in safety leadership. And whilst there are differences between industries, the overall pattern remains the same.

So what about how long the employee doing a rating has been in the job? Well, again, the overall pattern is the same. But if you've been in your workplace for less than one year, you're more likely to see your leader as giving more recognition. This is interesting. Why might it be the case that someone who's a little green sees their leader as more likely to praise and encourage their safety performance?

Well, our theories is that perhaps it's young and new workers who either perceive recognition to be happening more than it is or that they're receiving more recognition and say that because they're learning, and maybe they're even seeking out recognition more often as they require more feedback on how they're going.

So if we were to apply the findings here to your workplace, one recommendation might be to give your longer serving employees a little more love. Give them a bit of a pat on the back for their experience and influence in driving a positive safety culture because we know that the newer employees are perceiving they get more recognition than the ones who've been there longer.

And finally, we looked at any differences between perceptions of safety leadership based on what position you held in the organisational structure. So that is we're looking at did frontline workers perceive their supervisor to be better at recognition, for example, than the supervisor saw their boss, the superintendent, or the superintendent saw their manager?

And here you can see that regardless of position, recognition is still the lowest rated, but the recognition is perceived as a caring more frequently, the higher you go up the chain in the organisational structure, with senior managers being seen as giving more recognition than frontline leaders.

So why is it that frontline workers rate frontline leaders as worse at recognizing them than the middle or senior management? Our experience tells us that many of our frontline leaders have been promoted due to technical competence, and many organizations haven't invested in a lot of formal training in leadership. And so those frontline leaders are often promoted to leadership off the toes and are expected now to be experts in influencing the mindsets and behaviours of their staff.

And we all know that leading others requires a different skillset altogether to fixing a diesel engine or operating machinery. So, if only humans would work just like machines, it ought to be a lot easier.

So perhaps frontline workers are experiencing that sort of lack of skill and training for their supervisors in leading others. Now, the implication here, of course, is to invest in skilling up your frontline leaders in leadership skills. Some organisations are starting to do this and offer their supervisors Cert IV in frontline leadership and other leadership courses around the soft skills, effective leadership, and these are great initiatives.

So why do managers do better at recognition than supervisors? So, we suspect that this is because managers are not only more experienced, but they're also more likely to have been exposed to some leadership training or higher education along the way.

Having said that, though, even those at the top still on average seem to recognise their staff to some extent, not to a great extent and not the green zone, but still only in that middle zone. So all leaders at all levels could do with some investment in recognising their staff.

We do what's important to our leaders. And how do we know what's important? By what they pay attention to and what they recognize.

So let's sum this up. Not only did recognising and rewarding employees for high safety performance score lower than any other competency, it was actually rated at a level that has significant functional impact on culture. 28% you'll see in that diagram are rated in that green zone, which means that they recognize to a little extent at most.

So if an organisation whose leaders fall into that orange zone and that red zone, which makes of about 72% of the population, they've got the same poor to average safety leadership, which means that performance could be detrimental to safety outcomes, which could result in things like misalignment of the safety vision and expectations around safety related decisions, reduce discretionary efforts and compliance, reduced willingness to report incidents and hazards, and increased incident frequency and severity.

So investing in developing leaders' recognising ability provides a potential really quick win. Think about the impact a little more recognition for doing the right thing might have on the attitudes and behaviours of your staff. Consider how this might influence staff engagement, retention, and safety focus. How might this assist your culture to mature?

We know from the literature that using reward and recognition increases the frequency of the targeted behaviour by about 30%. So imagine if we consistently hunted the good staff and really paid attention to it, showed interest in what our teams are doing safely, and reinforce the attitudes and behaviours that contribute to the culture we want to build. It seems to easy, doesn't it?

So why don't we recognise people more? What gets in the way? Let's take a quick poll. I'd like you to be thinking now about what are some of the common barriers for leaders to recognizing positive safety performance. Is it lack of motivation? Is it lack of confidence or skill, or lack of support?

I'll give you a moment to vote if you haven't voted already.

Okay, so looking at the poll results, it shows us that most of you were feeling that actually a lack of confidence and skill in how to recognize others is the biggest barrier, followed by a lack of motivation, so sort of being unaware of the benefits of doing so, then followed by lack of organisational support. And certainly that marries up with my experiences that a lot of leaders kind of know it's a good idea, but just haven't quite come up with a strategy or a plan about how to recognise their staff and how to do so effectively, and that kind of holds them back from launching into a recognition strategy.

So, in terms of that confidence and skill, one of the things that may hold leaders back is the attitude that they hold about recognition. And I'd like to just share with you some frames or attitudes that you might have heard around site before, and see whether or not you recognize these attitudes.

So we've got first one, a belief here that if people are doing a good job, leave them alone. Don't tell people when they're doing well, only when they're not performing. Why do people need prize? They get paid to do a job and that money should be enough. Treat them mean and keep them keen, so that's a great one for dating, but maybe not for safety leadership. And then, finally, praise is only for puppies and children.

So if we believe some of these to be true, we're less likely to get involved in a recognition program and thank our staff for safe work. So the first step, of course, in supporting our leaders to get on board with the recognition strategy is just to explore what their attitudes are about recognition itself.

The next step to improve recognition for safe work is to develop a small [inaudible 00:32:23] of options about how to recognise staff. So it doesn't have to be expensive or time consuming. Ruffling off the big boat for LTI free time is not really what I'm talking about here. We're talking about giving small amounts of recognition in a way that is meaningful to the employee and doing that regularly.

So how should we recognise our staff for positive safety performance? We can give people verbal and non-verbal acknowledgement of their efforts. So we can, for example, be thanking them for speaking about a task that had a safety risk attached to it. We could stop and listen to their suggestions because nothing gives people a greater sense of feeling puffed up as being heard and having their opinion valued, and being seen as expert in your area.

Give them out time. That's a really precious commodity as of later. So giving your staff time to ask for their input, their ideas, to find out what the challenges are of their job, and showing interest in them as human beings is a fantastic source of recognition. And share genuinely and honestly your appreciation for someone's attitude or behaviour. Now, it's so critical that that recognition is delivered genuinely because, of course, if the employee sees a bit of a mismatch in our tone or voice, that says that perhaps I don't really mean what I say, of course, that recognition will be instantly dismissed.

Another way to recognise staff quite creatively is actually to pass on the good news to somebody else, so that that positive feedback gets shared around your site, and the person who did the good deed gets to hear kind of positive gossip about their good work from someone else. So that can be a great way to kind of build a positive culture.

Make sure we base our recognition on real data or on observation, so that it's credible and it appears fair, and also recognition either publicly or privately, depending on what the individual prefers. So this takes getting to know your team members, whether there's someone who likes to be out in the spotlight, or somebody who would absolutely hate that and much prefer a quiet pat on the back individually.

So if you're looking for some tips now on how to improve recognition for safety at work, here's five steps that you can take. First, identify the positive safety behaviours you want to see in your team. So it might be I want them to report incidents [inaudible 00:35:00]. It might be that I want them to engage more actively in their risk assessments. It might be that I want them to speak up more to their colleagues or demonstrate active care to each other.

So identify those couple of safety behaviours you want to see and make a list of the types of reward and recognition available for you to use. So this might mean speaking to the HR department to find out what recognition systems are available because there might be things like email systems with the recognition, or there maybe money available to be able to spend on small gifts for employees who've gone above and beyond. And there might be other types of recognition strategies that are available for you to hook into.

So maybe find out what those are and also consider the list of reward and recognition that I've mentioned in the previous slide. So that we're considering both tangible and intangible opportunities.

Number three would be to spend time in the field actively looking for opportunities to recognise individuals for demonstrating the positive behaviours. So it's really hard to recognise our staff and our team for doing the right thing if we're not out there with them, on the job, being able to catch them doing the right thing. So this is really about leaders being visible and present with their teams and being able to hunt for the good staff.

Now, when we change the focus of our [inaudible 00:36:27] to being looking for the things that are going well, it's surprising how often we start to see more of that just because we are deliberately tuning our focus into seeing the good things occur. So just changing your mental focus to hunting the good staff can actually make a really big difference, but make sure you're out there with your team, so that you can catch them doing the right thing.

Number four, when you observe positive behaviours, decide on the most appropriate recognition for that individual or team. So, this takes, of course, getting to know your team and understanding what it is that they would value most.

And then, finally, take action to recognise the individual or team as soon as possible. Don't delay the reward or recognition a month and don't wait until you have a perfect strategy to get started. Get started straight away. Probably the risk is lower to get started than wanting for it to be perfect.

So that concludes the presentation per se. I'll hand over to Suzanne now, who will open up to the floor for questions. Thank you.

Suzanne:

Thanks, Anna. We do have a couple of questions coming in, so if people just want to hand on to those, it's always good to hear Anna's thoughts on a few of the questions that people ... so do feel free to type in some more. At the moment, I guess one of the questions is around that incentivising. You mentioned the big boat. What do you think of those approaches where a big ticket item is used? You hear about groups that are offered Harbor Bridge Climbs and Disneyland. Well, how do you get the balance, any comments on that, Anna?

Anna:

Absolutely. And look, organizations who put these incentives in place have their heart in the right place, I think. They're wanting to reward high safety performance, particularly for a large group of people. I think one of the challenges in providing a big ticket item like a lottery for a trip to Disneyland or something like that is that towards the end of the, for example LTI free time. So let's imagine you've set the goal that if we get 12 LTI-free, then everybody goes into a lottery to win a great big prize.

One of the challenges with that is that, as you get closer and closer to the cutoff time, if you're a worker who hasn't been involved in an injury and that's a significant one that will involve lost time, how likely do you reckon would be to put that little notification into the safety officer if we know that that's going to jeopardize the likelihood of all of our colleagues getting put in for that trip to Disneyland? So the challenge here is that usually drives reporting underground.

The other issue then is what we often see happening immediately after that prize has been handed out is an increase in the number of injuries as the focus is then shifted. So yeah, we got our 12 LTI free time, now we're back to business as usual, and the risk of injury increase ... the risk goes up typically afterwards. So, much better approach to those smaller, more regular rewards.

Suzanne:

We've got another good question here and it's along that theme I guess where you mentioned one in four strong leaders. Does it not just equate that if you're a strong safety leader, you also are just going to be one of those really strong leaders? What's the evidence to say there? Can you comment?

Anna Clarkson:

Yeah, it's a really good question and there are many people out in the safety community who would say, "Look, let's not use the term safety leaders, it's just leadership." And there's a good point to be had about that. That if you look at those safety leadership competencies, they are competencies that you could apply to any goal. They are what make a good leader, but not all good leaders who are great at influencing production right apply those same competencies to safety. And we can see from the way that the population are reporting or describing their leaders.

The application of those leadership skills to safety is a big area of opportunity. So we'd say actually the application of those competencies is quite unique and requires specific focus.

Suzanne:

I guess one from the floor here, from me actually. Being a safety regulator, we have a lot of duties, and I guess I'm wondering how you reconcile fitting in with things that just must be done. We have requirement to consult and collaborate and cooperate and some of this stuff's really just how good safety should run. And I'm just wondering if you can comment on that sort of big carrot versus stick concept.

Anna Clarkson:

Yeah, absolutely. And this is important, isn't it, but we know that compliance is absolutely critical. And there is an expectation that organisations are enforcing legislation and they're making sure they deliver a safe workplace for their employees to work in. So, yes, there are things that have to be done and compliance needs to be monitored and enforced.

The trick is if people aren't engaging in the safe work system and we are just using the big stick, the impact that has on culture is that people end up cooperating only out of fear of a [inaudible 00:41:57], rather than wanting to contribute and be part of the safety management system for the right reasons, so that we all go home to the people we love.

And so what that means is we actually inadvertently create a culture where more and more monitoring is actually required to keep it stable. And this puts a lot of burden on leaders to be acting as the police and on the regulator to act as the police in a workplace. Whereas, if we are looking to engage and inspire our workforce to do safe work for right reasons because there's something in this for me and for my colleagues and for us as a group, then the burden is less and it's actually much more effective in getting the [inaudible 00:42:44] we want.

Suzanne:

Thanks, Anna. I think that's probably a good place to finish.

[End of Transcript]


Engaging and communicating with the brain in mind
Presented by: Peter Kennedy Senior Manager at Ernst &  Young
Date: 20 June 2018

One of the greatest tools a leader has in their toolkit to help direct attention is effective questions. This webinar provides some practical tips on how to engage and communicate with your workforce to better manage MSDs. Peter Kennedy draws on his ten years’ experience as a health, safety and wellbeing consultant to in this overview of brain fundamentals and how leaders at all levels can have better conversations to control risks in the workplace.

Peter Kennedy is a registered psychologist with more than a decade of health safety and wellbeing consulting experience.

Peter is currently a Senior Manager at Ernst & Young based in Brisbane and is primarily focused on the design and execution of long term health safety and wellbeing strategies which align workforce engagement, psychology and business-specific priorities.

Download a copy of this film (ZIP/MP4, 202MB)

Read transcript

Engaging and communicating with the brain in mind

Presented by Peter Kennedy, Senior Manager, Ernst & Young

Presented on: 20 June 2018

Suzanne Johnson:
Welcome, everybody. My name is Suzanne Johnson. I'm the manager of the Ergonomics Unit here at Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and the facilitator for today's webinar. This is the second of our on-call webinar series. I'm really pleased you could join us. We're running this series as a bit of an on-call from a very successful symposium that was held last year. We've created this series based on some of the more popular presentations and workshops that we held on that day. We can share them with a broader audience and yourselves and then onto your supply chain. Just to make sure you are in the right place, today's webinar is about engaging and communicating with the brain in mind. I'll get in an early disclaimer though that today is not about all the technical side of managing MSDs.

Suzanne Johnson:
When we developed the symposium, we planned this around some of the critical enablers and barriers that involved in workplace prevention of MSDs. Some of these presentations are the much broader topic. You'd appreciate one of our key initiatives is really around consulting participative ergonomics. I think communication and getting that right is very critical. You'd appreciate, also, that we might have really robust systems in place and excellent resources, but if we don't get this communication piece right, we're not going to have success. After today, our remaining webinars that we're running in July will be about performance indicators, the knots and bolts session, just to really get you started with MSD risk management. Please go ahead and register. To the other ones, go to the work safe website and get on the events page, encourage your colleagues and supply chain also.

Suzanne Johnson:
When we developed the symposium, we planned this around some of the critical enablers and barriers that involved in workplace prevention of MSDs. Some of these presentations are the much broader topic. You'd appreciate one of our key initiatives is really around consulting participative ergonomics. I think communication and getting that right is very critical. You'd appreciate, also, that we might have really robust systems in place and excellent resources, but if we don't get this communication piece right, we're not going to have success. After today, our remaining webinars that we're running in July will be about performance indicators, the knots and bolts session, just to really get you started with MSD risk management. Please go ahead and register. To the other ones, go to the work safe website and get on the events page, encourage your colleagues and supply chain also.

Suzanne Johnson:
Today's session with Peter will run for probably 35 minutes or so, around that. We'll see how we go. We'll look to have you here for 45 minutes. We are recording the webinar. If something comes up, if you're going to go and race off to a meeting, please don't worry. You'll be able to re-listen to it. Also, if you do have any questions and thoughts as they come along, please enter them into the chat box that you can see on your screens, and then send to all panellists or just type them in there and we'll be up to see them and get to as many as we can at the end of the formal presentation. If we don't get to them today, Peter has offered to provide us a written response and we'll pose that up on the webinar when we upload it.

Suzanne Johnson:
To get on with today, we're very fortunate that we've had a number of our presenters from the symposium, kindly making themselves available again to present. We really are very thankful for that. I would, now, like to introduce you to Peter, who is today's presenter. He's a registered psychologist with more than a decade of health, safety, and well-being consulting experience. He has worked across a variety of sectors ranging from power and utilities, transport, construction, government. He's partnered with the ASX 200 and global operations to help drive positive changes and safety culture maturity, leadership, capability, and corporate well-being. Very experienced presenting here today.

Suzanne Johnson:
Peter is a principal author and lead consultant in a successful work cover grant submission by designing a coaching and mentoring program for Queensland based organizations to improve young worker safety outcome. Currently, he is a senior manager at Ernst & Young (EY) based in Brisbane. He's primarily focused on the design and execution of long term health, safety, and well-being strategies, which align with workforce engagement psychology and business specific priorities. I'm going to hand it over to Peter to get started. Thanks for coming.

Peter:
Thanks very much, Suzanne, for that kind introduction. Thanks, also, goes to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland for having me back as part of the MSD symposium series. Also, thanks to all the participants who have hooked all in no doubt during their busy schedules to listen into today. Before we get started, I just mentioned that I'm currently sitting in a senior manager role within EY. Not many people know that EY look after things to do with health sector unit and environment. As a quick summary, we're one of the largest professional services firms in the world. We provide a variety of assurance tax consulting and advisory services to companies in over 150 countries. Specifically, within our sustainability practice, we are dedicated and multi-disciplinary HSC team. We're comprised with people of numerous backgrounds including OHS, psychology such as myself, law accounting and many more.

Peter:
There is no doubt that protecting the health and safety of workers in the environment has always been a focus for us at EY and also, the companies we work with. We help clients design and implement the Spoke Solutions to manage many merging risks and also, leverage opportunities across areas such as HSC governance and reporting, culture and leadership, management systems and mental health, but this is just a brief insight. If you'd like to know more about EY and what we do in the HSC space, just please don't hesitate to contact me later. Before we jump in with today's topic of engaging and communicating with the brain in mind, I believe we're just going to open a quick poll for people to respond to regarding a couple of questions. The first one being would just be great for me to understand what our listener's role within the organization is. I know that's very broad. In particular, I'm interested in, are we sitting in manager, supervisor, or leadership roles or would we just classify ourselves as a team member.

Peter:
Okay. The response is suggesting that most of us sit in the OHS or human resources specialist piece, which is good to know. Also, there's a bunch of you in managerial or supervisor roles, which is also great, particularly when it comes to us talking about these communication tools and how we can influence others to drive helpful behaviours. That's fantastic to know. I believe we'll move on to our second one. Sorry, folks. We're just closing the first polling question off. It looks like the second polling question has just opened. That's trying to give us some insight into what sector or industry you belong to. It looks like with regards to that question, folks, thanks for bearing with us. It looks like we've got a widespread across each of those sectors. In particular, education and trainee is coming through quite strong. Also, our healthcare and social assistance providers as well. No doubt, a variety of risks and HSC and MSD challenges across all those sectors. At times, I'll actually try and do my best to maybe reference examples of how we can use some of these communication tools when it comes to supporting those types of organizations.

Peter:
In order for us to move on, I'll just try to place out what our agenda or learning objective look like for the next 30 minutes or so. The scientist in me suggest that we should first take a very quick plans at the empirical evidence for communication and how the skill correlates with particular MSD outcomes. I'll try and move through that quite swiftly, so it leaves us plenty of time in terms of our next objectives, which is looking at the brain science 101 as well as an introduction of two simple communication tools or techniques that you can support, not only for your own behavioural changes, but as well as, hopefully, influencing others with regards to health and safety outcomes. Then third, I'll take you through at a very high level, some seminal research down on powerful communication by a lady called, Nancy Duarte. Of course, hopefully, we have some time for questions at the end.

Peter:
In terms of our first topic on the empirical research and what the evidence suggest for the links between communication and MSD research. At the top there, it's suggesting that work-related MSDs are one of the most common cause of occupational ill-health. From my perspective, both relevant and appropriate communication activity and tools are required to raise awareness and drive behaviour change. What I've tried to do in my scan of literature is just break it down into a few key categories there on the left-hand side. That's just, as I said, from my quick claims at the research. We know that musculoskeletal disorders constitute a substantial fraction of workplace injuries and can result in cost to employees, workers, and societies as a whole. If we don't get these prevention programs rights and attached to wider the organization approaches, it can be really costly ineffective and unmaintainable as well from a sustainability point of view.

Peter:
For that first one there around prevention, staying at open communication, coordination and that keyword of cooperation involved in the effective and sustainable prevention of work-related MSDs requires more of a promotion of a collective development of common understanding and representation of MSDs. This is a concept, actually, known as participatory ergonomics. It's a bit of a mouthful, which essentially allows us to debate amongst stakeholders about workers activity and strategies to cope with the work constraints in practice which could help them to share the representations of their work, the situation and the system, and how these all cooperate together. By allowing stakeholders to share those representations, therefore, it represents the useful tool for the prevention of MSDs and preventions should provide sufficient space and time for dialogue and discussion of workers' activities during both the conception, implementation, and management of integrated prevention programs.

Peter:
From a duration point of view, the evidence is really clear and that it shows that employer participation, early contact, and open communication between workplace and healthcare providers significantly reduces work disability duration in workers with MSD. Indeed, early intervention for workers with chronic MSD conditions is much more cost effective than paying long-term disability benefits at the backend. This is backed up in the next bit of research, which is around returns at work. Again, we're seeing that keyword of improved communication between all place leads to faster return to work unless sickness absence overall and again, is more cost-effective. Closely link the research supporting reduced duration. It's crucial that work is designed in a way that aims to prevent the occurrence or aggravation of the illness and to ensure that the ability of all the employees to work is maintained until their retirement age, but of course, if prevention is not possible, many chronic diseases can be effectively managed through appropriate workplace adjustments allowing for the return to work of employees after these periods of absences with MSDs.

Peter:
What I also noticed in the research was a key theme around roles and responsibilities. Many guidelines produced across the states including Workplace Health and Safety Queensland for the successful prevention of MSDs suggest that the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders need to be established at the early stages of strategies and initiatives. These roles need to be clearly defined and also monitored over time. Again, the interventions for MSDs are much more effective at all place, recognize their roles, take responsibility, and communicate open and positively throughout the process. Just closing the research part out then, I said it's a very, very quick glance. I think there's a few key points here to summarize. First is the idea of prevention. This idea of participatory ergonomics and these programs seek to maximize the involvement of the workers in the process based on the simple fact that the worker is an expert on his or her job.

Peter:
The participatory approach to ergonomics relies on actively involving workers in implementing their ergonomic knowledge, procedures, and changes with the intention of improving the working conditions for safety, productivity and quality of their work. The second point to note is that if prevention is not possible, employees should take a proactive approach to facilitate return to work. Well, I think all employees need education based on principles of good healthcare and workplace management. Therefore, the dissemination of good workplace preventative practices should be supported, promoted, and advertised. Again, this idea of knowledge transfer primarily comes down to good communication between all stakeholders. Finally, just to close out although it's not linked to research per se, communication is a quintessential skill when it comes to helping organizations make their legislative requirements. Just think, for those of you in leadership roles who are listening in with regards to due diligence obligations and from a risk management perspective or consultation point of view. The even better news though is that the research supports this and that overall open infrequent communication is better practiced for MSD prevention and the health, safety, and well-being of your workforce.

Peter:
I hope that's given us a brief insight into some of the BMSD research and the links between effective communication. Now, I'd like to move on to our second learning objective, which is a brief explanation of the brain combines with our two simple brain tools regarding effective communication. The brain is one of the most complex living organisms that we know of. It's actually made up of about 90% fat and water. Although it weighs approximately only 2% of our body weight, it consumes, approximately, 25 to 30% of our body's oxygen and energy resources. What we can see on our screen is a very simple brain model, which I'll now walk us through. It's probably one of the best known way for understanding the structure of the brain in relation to its evolutionary history. These three brain models actually have been around since about the 1960s. Obviously, it's been refined ever since due to advancements in technology and scanning imagery of the brain. However, the basic principles still ring through today.

Peter:
The first part I'd like to refer to is the brainstem, which is the red part there. It's the oldest and deepest area of the brain. It's often referred to as the reptilian brain because it resembles the entire brain of a reptile. Of the 12 body nerves that go into the brain, 11 of them actually end in the brainstem itself. This is where vital body functions such as heartbeat, respiration, body temperature and digestion are monitored and controlled. Importantly, for our talk today, the brainstem also has the reticular activating system, which I'll often talk about as the RAS, which is primarily responsible for the brain's alertness. The second part of the brain there in our three-part model is coloured in yellow, which is our limbic system. Most of the structures of the limbic system are duplicated in each hemisphere of the brain. These structures carry out a number of different functions including the generation of emotions and processing of emotional memories, consolidating things like learning and converting information from working memory as well as monitoring the internal systems to maintain the normal state of the body called, homeostasis.

Peter:
Many people have also heard of the part of the brain called, the amygdala, which is responsible for regulating our interactions with the environment and can quickly kick into being with our fight or flight response. This is often known as the amygdala hijack, which was a term coined by Daniel Goleman in his famous 1996 book, Emotional Intelligence. Finally, the green part there is our neocortex. It's the part of our human brain involved in that higher order thinking or brain function such as sensory, perception, cognition, degeneration of motor commands, and also things like problem solving, spatial reasoning and language. We often talk about the frontal lobes of the brain, which is just lying behind the forehead. This is often seen as the executive control centre. Before moving on, I want to reinforce that these three parts of the brain do not operate independently of one another. They have established numerous interconnections through which they influence one another. They're not mutually exclusive. For example, the neuropathways between the limbic system to the neocortex are very important and well-established when it comes to skills such as building resilience in your workforce.

Peter:
Now, we have a simple understanding of the brain, we're going to link this to the idea of communication. It goes without saying that 24 hours a day and seven days a week, we're getting million bits of data coming into your brain via your five senses. Information about your world, your body, your thoughts, your feelings and other people around you are all being processed by this wonderful piece of kit that's sticking along. Some of this information we're aware of and some that we are not. Our brain's job is to determine what we need to pay attention to in any given moment and time. One of the greatest tools that we have as both workers and leaders within industry in our leadership tool kits is to help direct people's attention through the art of good quality questioning. If we want to switch out of people's brains on to opportunities regarding the prevention of MSD within an organization, for example, we can simply do this by asking better quality questions.

Peter:
An effective question can promote a number of things including the sharing of work experience and knowledge. Again, referring back to participatory ergonomics, focusing people's attention on hazards and risks through consultation, challenging or the removal of assumptions within an organization. We can also use questions to spark the creation of ownership or building of relationships and trust. We can also ask strategic questions to help break down barriers and challenge people's mindsets on a particular topic. What we know from the research is that different types of questions elicit different responses. As such, some might be more useful for managing risk whereas, others to challenge organizational practices or even to promote individual self-reflection. We can think of questions being made up of three core principles in terms of their construction, the audience or target who is being focused on and also, the time frame involved.

Peter:
Let me just briefly explain what I mean there. What construction we're talking about, essentially, the close to open questions or what I refer to as broad versus narrow. Narrow questions often start with things like is, are or do. "Do you understand your obligations?" It could be the form of a yes, no question. "Are you resourced to perform this job?" would also be an example of another narrow-based type of question. We can then make broader-based construction questions through using statements such as what, when, where or why. Then we can also open our question with things like how or what if or if then, which really opens a window of inquiry into the listener's mind. The target refers to who we're getting people to reflect on is at an individual type base question such as, "What did you learn from that experience?" That's prompting you to self-reflect on what you might do differently.

Peter:
As a result of this webinar, you might go back to your team and your organization and say, "What does this mean for us in terms of MSD prevention?" Now, what's a much more broader question looking at a collective response in how you might engage with your wider stakeholders. Again, the audience of our questions may vary. The last one there is time. We can ask past or any type of questions, which we often do in things like instant investigations. We can ask very present focus questions around right here, right now and also get people to think about future possibilities and opportunities down the track. In terms of effective questions, I think it's really useful to think about redefining the problem or reframing, which is often about being able to ask a better question.

Peter:
In many cases, as health and safety professionals, we're often, I think, trying to solve the wrong question. Let me clarify. It's been about 40 years since research has empirically demonstrated the central role of questioning and problem reframing and things like creativity and innovation. I think it's from Albert Einstein to Peter Drucker's in business and Richard Branson and entrepreneurs have emphasized the importance of properly diagnosing your problem. Why the organization still struggle to get it right when it comes to health and safety? I think it's sometimes because we're not asking a more effective question. To give you a non-health and safety or MSD example, I'll refer to a recent article I read in HBR. It basically posed this scenario, imagine that you are the owner of an office building and your tenants are complaining about the elevator. Essentially, it's old and slow and they have to wait a lot. Several tenants are threatening to break their leases if you don't fix the problem because employees are starting to get frustrated with the white times.

Peter:
The brain can easily quickly pose the question, "Well, how do we make the elevator go faster?" When asked this question, we quickly identify some solutions. What often comes to mind are things like replace the lift, install the stronger motor, or perhaps, upgrade the algorithm that run the lift. These suggestions fall into what we call, The Solution Space, a cluster of solutions that share the same assumption about what the problem is. In this case, that the elevator is slow. However, when the problem is reframed with a completely different question such as, "What would make the weight less frustrating?" different solutions start to come to mind. The elegant answer to this question, which many have now solved is to put up mirrors next to the elevator. This simple measure has proved wonderfully effective in reducing complaints across CBDs across the globe, because people tend to lose track of time when given something utterly fascinating to look at, namely, themselves. Many foyers, also, now have coffee chats which also distract people from having to wait because they can now stand and enjoy their morning brew while waiting for the lift to arrive.

Peter:
The mirror solution is particular interesting, because in fact, it is not a solution to the originally stated problem. It doesn't make the elevator faster. Instead, it proposes a different understanding of the problem through a different question. Don't get me wrong, installing a new lift would probably work, but the point of asking a different question is to understand if there's a better question to solve. In fact, the very idea that a single root cause problem exist may even be misleading. We know from health and safety that problems are typically multi-causal and can be addressed in many ways. I think the same type of thinking can be readily applied to things like MSD prevention or improving health, safety, and well-being outcomes of workers in general. We often ask questions of people such as, "How can we improve employee well-being?"

Peter:
Again, it's not a bad question because it may lead to the quick implementation of programs such as mindfulness training, resilience programs or promoting helping eating habits or exercise programs. Again, great ideas if you have discretionary time and budget available. However, asking a different question such as, "What things contribute to a negative employee experience is likely to bring to mind a range of different answers that may include things such as psychosocial perspectives associated with poor work design, role ambiguity, lack of procedural justice or even limited decision-making latitude for employees. Now that we have this range of answers, we can be much more targeted in our approach and aim to actually implement what we call, Primary Preventative Mechanisms to better manage the risk to employee well-being. That brings us to the end of the importance of effective questioning.

Peter:
What I'd like to do now is to move on to another communication technique that is very helpful in supporting people with behavioural changes. If you try to influence people to do anything, for me, behaviour change is key. Probably, it comes as no surprise that by holding a strong goal intention doesn't guarantee goal achievement. I'm not telling you anything new here, right? Just think of how many times you've made a New Year's resolution and not follow through. This may be because of a number of reasons both individual and external. To address these issues, it is proposed that successful goal achievement is facilitated by a second apt which furnishes the goal intention with an if then plan, which specifies when, where, and how the person will instigate the response that promotes goal realization. These plans are termed, Implementation Intentions. What they are principally responsible for is addressing that intention behaviour gap which often exist when we're setting a goal.

Peter:
You can probably recall many instances where you had a good intention. For example, to order a low fat meal at a restaurant, but nonetheless, you failed to initiate on this action. Again, often for a number of reasons. There is often a trade-off between long term and short term consequences. Others might describe this common place situation as a dilemma between the head and the heart. Most of us are also highly unaware of how behaviour is guided by situational context, which is, in psychology, known as priming. Whereby, environmental cues can make us unconsciously perform certain behaviours that are not necessarily aligned to our end goal. This is where implementation plans come into play. Their often best phrase is, "If then" statements in order to facilitate the effective regulation of goal achievement.

Peter:
In short, if then plans increase the likelihood that strong goal intentions are realized. Depending on the research you read, you're potentially two to three times more likely to succeed with your goal if you use an if then plan than if you don't. For example, another analysis done about 10 years ago reviewed results from 94 independent studies that use the if then technique and found significantly moderate to high success rates for just about every goal you can think of, from using public transportation more frequently, increasing recycling behaviours, completing self-help check examinations and even, fairly enough, attending workplace health and safety training. These plans work so well because they speak the language of your brain, the language of contingencies. Humans are very good at encoding information in if X than Y terms, and then using this process often unconsciously to guide the behaviour. The creation of this mental link facilitate the goal attainment on the basis of psychological processes.

Peter:
Let me provide you with an example. Let's say, you're trying to lose weight by modifying your dietary intake. You're making if then plan. If the desert menu gets offered to me, then I'll order a cup of tea. Now, that might sound like a novel idea, but I've actually heard that one before with one of my clients when I worked within a hospital. Now, the situation of being offered the desert menu becomes highly activated. Below your awareness, what happens is your reticular activating system starts scanning the environment, searching for the situation in the if part of your plan, which has been stored in your limbic system. Specifically, the hippocampus. The great thing is, once the if part of the plan happens, the end part is likely to automatically follow because you've trained your brain using this type of communication. You don't have to consciously monitor your goal, which means, your plans often get carried out even when you are preoccupied. That saved us a lot of energy and also, requires less will power, which is fantastic for the brain.

Peter:
What I'd like you to do is think of the implications here for health and safety for our organizations and influencing people's behaviour. In fact, as I prepared for this, I could think of many examples in which you could actually use implementation intentions or if then plans. Simple examples may include, if a member of the public comes onto site while you're working, then choose to stop work and seek support. If you're completing a high risk task, then you might need a permit to work. If you hear this alarm, then move quickly towards your nearest exit. If you're driving for more than two hours consecutively, then stop revive survive. In fact, a lot of the health and safety information we provide people in a daily basis can use this if then type language to increase the likelihood that people engage with the desired behaviours. The thing is that we can provide these plans in the form of multiple areas such as emails when conducting training or even things like toolbox talks or pre-starts. They also help drive consistency of response to help achieve a great outcome.

Peter:
Okay. Very mindful of our time. Essentially, on that slide there is just a summary of what I've spoken about with regards to questions and implementation plans. Of course, if you like to learn more or if I can send you any research that I've quoted throughout that section, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me. What I'd then briefly like to talk to you about now, given we have some limited time available, is to how it's highly your communications reach larger groups or audiences while using some powerful communication techniques. What you can see on the screen is, in order to do this, we're going to have a quick look at the ground-breaking work done by Nancy Duarte. She's rated as one of the world's top communication professionals. You can actually reference some of this work at a later date by looking at some of her TED Talks or even her book, Resonate, which details a persuasive way of structuring talks that deeply connects with an audience.

Peter:
What you can see is her visualization of I Have a Dream, the Martin Luther King's speech, which was publicly delivered back in 1963. The white line on the screen represents King's speech as a whole, with the bottom line representing in more current state and the top line representing a future state. Although it's arranged across quite a loose timeline, his speech moves quite eloquently from both past to present and also, to future states. There's, essentially, three key parts. Drilling down a bit, the first part of his speech is, essentially, the call to adventure. This should show the audience a gap between what is and what could be, essentially jolting the brain from complacency. When constructed effectively, an imbalance is created to the brain. The audience will want you to resolve this imbalance throughout your presentation. What you can see then in that lengthy middle part is what he uses as a call and response technique, otherwise known as comparing past versus future. For which, the audience, it creates cognitive dissonance. It actually gives us what we call a problem solving rush in the brain.

Peter:
Notice how the middle moves up and down quite frequently or back and forth between what is and what could be. He does this to create heightened energy and emotion within the audience. Again, tapping into the limbic system which we've previously explored. Third, the final turning point in this speech is the call to action which is represented by that last straight line. This transition points signifies he's coming to the presentation's conclusion, but it also clearly ends on the future bliss. This is the last thing left in the listener's mind. While focusing on this positive new feature, the listener's brain is likely to get a large sheet of the feel good chemical, dopamine, and combine with probably a little bit of adrenaline, kicks people into wanting to take action. What you can hopefully see on your screens now is some colour coding.

Peter:
Just to move through this relatively swiftly, what Nancy Duarte's has eloquently done is transcribe each of the sentences of King's speech, but then provided meaningful insights into how he structured his delivery using some techniques. The first colour we'll mention is pink, which is any time he uses visual words and metaphors. He masterfully uses descriptive language to create images in the minds. For example, at the end of his opening sequence King states, "America has given the negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds." Fairly enough, he then responds with another metaphor to describe future state. His quote is, "So we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice." He uses a lot of visuals to strategically paint a picture in people's minds and again, elicit a lot of emotion. Most people know what it's like to have a bad check or no money in their account.

Peter:
King sprinkles his speech with picture words of ordinary things that are easy for the audience to imagine. Things such as flames, oceans, islands, hills and tables. He also uses a lot of action words such as people languishing or sitting down together. Again, something that the brain can easily connect with both logically and also emotionally. The blue in the speech represents any time that King uses repetition. He uses this very often. As we can see, it's in the third quarter of the speech where he engages the audience through repetition, using the phrases, "I have a dream," and then responding, "That one day." He repeats that time and time again. In fact, I only found out when researching for this webinar, the original title of King's speech was, The Fierce Urgency of Now. It was actually the audience and the people who renamed the "I Have a Dream Speech," because of this beloved sequence of repetition.

Peter:
The green buzz represents songs, hymns and spiritual literature from that era. He uses common ground by referencing these things that are familiar to the audience. Again, from a brain perspective to elicit an emotional perspective where he deliberately uses things that are precious to the audience. That's why his speech reaches a number of climaxes and engages the audience throughout the 16 minutes. The last colour we have left is orange, which I think is one of the most fascinating. This is the only time where he specifically makes a political reference such as documentation or information contained within the declaration of independence. For example, he states, "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal." Again, a political reference and a promise that had been broken.

Peter:
To wrap this up, what I find personally fascinating is that in a highly memorable and political public address, there's not much politics, actually, in it. I think one of the main reason why and you might chuckle at this is due to him not relying on a PowerPoint presentation. The speech would not be stronger by showing pitches, grafts or statistics or heaven forbid, a list of bullet points outlining his complaints. Why? Because the purpose of his speech is to engage the brain and to motivate and move an audience, not necessarily to inform and instruct. Don't get me wrong, slide the best often used to transfer information, but if you want to engage and move an audience and get people to buy into your new future, then draw pictures in the minds of your listeners by using some of the skills we've covered here today, whether that'd be from King's speech, if then plans, or questions. I think if we do this more often, it's actually going to be really helpful in achieving our outcomes.

Peter:
Folks, I'm very mindful though, I'm getting to wrap up. I'll leave those key takeaways on the board. In terms of what we've covered today, we've essentially used and looked at a few communication tools such as questioning and if then statements in order to, I guess, shift people's perspectives, challenge attitudes and also encourage goal intended behaviour. Then we've just looked at a few powerful techniques that have been used by Martin Luther King in order to engage and move an audience. I'll hand back to Suzanne who might moderate the questions for me. Thank you.

Suzanne Johnson:
Thanks, Peter. Look, we've had a couple of questions coming, but feel free to pop in any queries that you've got in your chat boxes. One of the questions is probably in following on from that comment about Martin Luther King's speech and the imagery he uses mostly positive. I think it's something that I know we work talk a little bit around when you're using positive or negative language. A lot of safety language is, "Don't stop. Don't do this. Don't do that," versus should we be using more positive. Can you comment on what's maybe more effective or ...

Peter:
Great question to open. The first thing I want to say, I don't think it's about good, bad, right, wrong, positive or negative per se. I think it gets a little bit more complex than that. I totally agree with the sentiment that a lot of safety often talks about golden rules and non-negotiables and the signage and symbols we use within organizations often starts to reinforce that we can't do something or we shouldn't do this. On the flip side, I guess, I take, personally, a bit more of a safety differently approach where some listeners might be familiar with. What I mean by that is, looking at things such as positive deviance where people are looking at the variances between work as imagined and work as done. In order to understand the nuances there, we need to, I guess, look at positive questioning and communication, which is underpinned by things like trust and humility.

Peter:
I think the other technique, which I'm a big advocate of particularly as a psychologist as well as a safety professional is that idea of appreciative inquiry. Fundamentally, that model is based on the assumption that we take more of a strength based approach. Rather than asking questions such as, "What are the problems? What's wrong? What needs to be fixed?" Appreciative inquiry focuses on what works, what's at the positive core, and what people really care about. Again, that more strength based approach. I think if we look at that from a language perspective, that much more energizes people.

Suzanne Johnson:
I've got another question that's coming, Peter. How can you apply these techniques to written situations? I guess you've been talking about the verbal communication. Is there any changes there?

Peter:
Yeah. The question is the same with written situations such as emails. How much communication is done via email these days? It's a fair whack of it if I reflect on my personal experiences. Again, there's no limit to, I guess, the questions we can pose in an email, how we choose to structure an email in terms of chunking information down into bite size pieces. We know that the conscious brain has significant limitations when it comes to working memory. I know many times, we get a really long email. It's almost like a spaghetti principle, which is hoping something sticks and that the end user gets it. I think where possible keeping emails and written communication short and concise, chunking information down into key themes or bullet points.

Peter:
Again, in written communication, we can use things like repetition or metaphors or visuals to help support the words that we're using. We can also use questions at the end of the email to get the reader or end user to have a think about what this information means for them. There's lots of, I think, considerations for communication when it comes to the written form.

Suzanne Johnson:
Another one, Peter. We're slipping as many as we can while we've got you here. I guess, we had to seek and talk about culture maturity a bit last week. This one is really around. Has there been research and how much the language used within an organization tell us about the maturity of that organization, that safety maturity? Do you think there's any differences there? I don't know. You may want to park that one.

Peter:
No, that's okay. I'll jump in really briefly. Health and safety maturity and helping organizations diagnose and better understand their culture maturity and also helping them understand a future state and then addressing that depth is something I'm quite passionate about. I'll speak from an EY perspective. We have a particular health and safety maturity framework that we work towards and some of the key [inaudible 00:44:05] that we look at are things like the people and the engagement with the workforce. We look at leadership styles around, fairly enough, things like communication, reward and recognition, support the amount of consultation that's being happened. We also look at the organization's approach to things like risk and systems. I think, although it might not be explicit in our approach, definitely from a practitioner viewpoint, I'm always looking at the language that people are using.

Peter:
Apart from the visuals of first walking into an organization and having a look at the built environment in terms of how the work is structured and how the resources and workers design of supporting people, how people talk to one another and how people communicate to one another is very, very important. I probably don't have time to go into the research around things like communication and trust. We know that, I guess, how we demonstrate trust and alignment with our workforce is critical. There's bits of research that I'm familiar with which suggest that the relationship that we have with our direct leader at our work, the variance of our world being is attributed to about 50% of that relationship. For those of you who are leaders online, if you're willing to increase trust with your workforce, I think open transparent and also humble or being vulnerable in our communication is highly important from a culture perspective.

Suzanne Johnson:
One more question and then I'm going to wrap it up. I guess this one is really around some of those really long health beliefs and attitudes towards MSD prevention, the old chestnut of, we all grew up with, "Bend your knees, keep your back straight." Now, the evidence is there that that's not an effective control at all and anyone is spending time on technique training probably is wasting their money. How do we change those really embedded long health beliefs and some of the people that are out there and any amount of communication. Is it just really a repeat of what you did or ...

Peter:
To a degree. I think what makes it difficult is that, obviously, from an attitude and behavioural perspective, we've all got a different starting point. That might be based on experience or tenure within the organization or the amount of training or capabilities I have. What that often means for me within the organization is, we need to be almost thinking of the subgroups or subcultures within our organization and how we're tailoring our communication and knowledge transfer appropriately. Without going into psychological theories of change, we might have a whole range of people and what's called a pre-contemplation state where they're thinking, "Why do I need to change? What's in it for me? This is how I've always done it." The types of communication we need for those people is very different for a person who's in an attitude nor stage change of preparation or readiness. They've already got the motivation. They probably already answered the question of why and the communication then needs to be enabling them or occasionally, how can we put that motivation into action.

Peter:
You've also got other groups which are probably doing the right thing. Therefore, you need some communication around sustainable practices and monitoring of risk management and things like that. Unfortunately, I don't think it's a one size fits all approach when it comes to attitude or behavioural change, but I'm going to assume that's probably a topic for another webinar. Thank you.

Suzanne Johnson:
Thanks a lot, Peter. I know I'm in a conflative state at the moment, but look, with any other questions, we'll respond to those and pop on the website, but just thanks again for taking timeout of your busy schedule to present. We are very grateful. I'm sure everyone would agree that your presentation was insightful and we've all walked away with a couple of points to take home and work on. Thanks again for participating. Just a reminder to everyone to go on and register if you haven't already for the next couple in July. If you'd like to access more information on preventing and managing MSDs, here's the plug, go to the website. There's a lot of material there. Your feedback is always valuable. Please hang in there. There's a really short 30-second survey that's going to pop up. We'd love to get your feedback. Thank you.

Peter:
Folks, I'm just going to say, if you do want to get in touch, I did mention a number of bits of research or studies throughout the webinar. I'm more than happy for people to contact me for a variety of ways or connect with me via LinkedIn and that's also okay. Thank you so much.

[End of Transcript]


Measuring for success – performance indicators and executive reporting
Presented by: Karen Wolfe, Executive Officer Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
Date: 19 July 2018

This webinar will challenge and enhance your thinking on the existing measures and KPIs you have in place to drive safely at work. The processes for gathering and communicating WHS performance information has significant impacts on the resources allocated and decisions made about safety that determines business outcomes.

Download a copy of this film (ZIP/MP4, 104MB)

Read transcript

Measuring for success – performance indicators and executive reporting

Presented by: Karen Wolfe, Executive Officer, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation

Presented on: 19 July 2018

Susan Johnson:
My name's Susan Johnson. I'm the manager of the ergonomics unit here, at workplace health and safety Queensland, and today's facilitator. The Workplace Health and Safety Queensland have been running this encore series following on from a really successful event last year, MSD Symposium. We created this series based on some of that popular presentations, and workshops from the day, so we could reach a broader audience. So to make sure you are in the right place today, this webinar is about measuring for success performance indicators and executive reporting. I will get an early budget explaining that this is not about technical managing MSDs. Stay tuned for that next week.

Susan Johnson:
Today is really covering off on what we see as some of the critical enablers, and barriers, to preventing MSDs in the workplace. Some of the presentations we've had, have been on that much broader element around the critical for the stages in safety management systems. You would have seen in the previous sessions on leadership on engaging and communicating. So you'd all appreciate that to have a robust system you need some, not only excellent resources and tools, but also measuring the right KPIs. We may not be driving the right safety outcomes without that. So hence the today.

Susan Johnson:
After today, we do have one more webinar next week. And its about MSD prevention, and risk management. So you can also register on the website. Please go ahead and do that, on to the events page. I would encourage you to share that broadly to your colleagues and your supply chain. Today, is going to be about 45 minutes, and we are recording it, so don't be alarmed if you do have to step away, or for some reason can't listen to the whole event. We will have that up on the website.

Susan Johnson:
Karen is going to talk for about 30 minutes, present to us, and then we'll be following up with a short Q & A session. And on that, if you do have any questions, you'll see on the computer, on the screen there, you've got a little chat box. And there's a section that says, "Tend to". Please click on "All panelists", and you can type in all your questions there, and I'll see that and be able to ask Karen that question as well. We'll try and get through as many questions as we can at the end of the presentation, but if we don't, we will ask Karen for some feedback and put some commentary on the website, when we have the webinars uploaded.

Susan Johnson:
So, with no further ado, I'm pleased to invite Karen to start talking to us, just to let you know, that we're very fortunate to have a number of presenters that have kindly made themselves available to present to us. We're very thankful. Karen has quite a credential bio here, but I have amended it quite briefly, so we can allow as much time for her to present. Karen's an executive officer to the COO of the Australia Nuclear Science Organization, otherwise known as ANSO. She has many years of experience, over 25, in work, health and safety, to ensure compliance and to identify and establish best practice safety. I'm going to hand over to Karen now, and welcome Karen.

Karen:
Thanks very much Susan. I hope everybody can hear me, and thank you everybody for taking time out of your very busy day to share your lunch with me, and hopefully you are sharing your lunch. I want to start off by saying I'm actually not here to tell you how to do your job. I always find it very annoying when people talk and make out like you don't know what you're doing. What I really want to share with you is my journey of discovery, that started back from my very early days when I used to [inaudible 00:04:13] when the executive said to me, "Make it smaller. Make it smaller." And I gave a call to HR and said, "Surely, we've had some staff lease, where we could have a smaller LTI bar." To where I've come to now, and the thinking that's gone on, to drive where I'm located.

Karen:
We have not picked an easy job to do. We must have an eye to the future of work, and potential impact on work health and safety. We've got to look at technology. We've got to look at our work place. We've got to look down the supply chain. If we take William Teller as an example, he was a master of the long bow. He knew exactly what he was doing. His target was shoot apples of heads, don't kill person. He trained all the people and figured all the rest of the organization out with one bow. They were all experts on what they had to do. And then the future of work happened. And the crossbow was invented, and it was new technology. It was the changing world.

Karen:
So from a work heath safety perspective, they had to look across the organization to the impacts of the change. If the kind of work as well as the old long bow, how long before everybody can be accommodated, either with the new technology, or the training, and the expertise needed to drive the new technology? And what new training is actually required? Can you apply your old skills or do you need to go right back to basic principals? And what about the psychosocial effects on people who were experts on what they did, to have to go right back to being a novice and learn those skills all over again?

Karen:
The next thing to make sure happens with this is, the business integration of work health and safety in to all aspects of the business process, as well as considering the total work health, with the integration of safety, and health, into the DNA of the job design. So is it going to create angst for the fingers? Are we going to have muscular skeletal disease, because it's going to be sitting on shoulders and it's going to be recoil? What's all the issues that have to be considered when introducing a crossbow, instead of a long bow?

Karen:
And success for us, is measured in people's lives and wellbeing. So how do we tell decision makers how things are going? On the other hand, how do we know when we are doing well? Its very easy for us to identify when something has gone horribly wrong. But how can we identify what actions are actually making a difference for us. This is what actually exercise my brain, for over the past 16 years. Some of you might want to leave right now, because the key message that I want to deliver today, is that you actually can't get your measures out of a text book.

Karen:
And what works for one organization is actually not guaranteed to work for you. The secret to how you measure for success is actually in the questions you ask. So what is your objective? What do you actually want to improve? Who we're going to be giving the information or because the measure that you provide them needs to meet their needs for the decisions they need to make. What are you actually assessing? And what change do you want to see? What activities are going to influence this, so you can actually see if you're making a difference. So you're just going to be shooting in the breeze? Then you've got to actually measure and evaluate against all these things, and then, you start all over again, because hopefully, its been a change that you're going to put in place, and improvement.

Karen:
So actually, are we a science? The scientific knowledge that can be used to prevent work related fatality, injury, disease, and ill health, is often well known, long before it is seriously applied. We all know the impact of gravity on the body, and we all know the injury over time, of continuous and repeated movement. The time has passed, when prevention of work related injury, and ill health, can be considered a matter of common sense. When we ignore or don't clearly understand the scientific basis of work health and safety, work health and safety practice defaults to a superficial common sense, or flavor of the month, year, approach.

Karen:
So inspecting the sites, then we, people working in safety are scientist. Doctor Google, says that a scientist is a person engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge, that describes and predicts the natural world, or one who uses the scientific method. And by scientific method, it is that you make observations, you think of interesting questions, you formalize hypotheses, you develop testable predictions, you gather data, to test those predictions, and you maybe, refine, alter, expend, or reject your hypothesis, and then you develop a general theory, and move forward. Well, I say, we are scientists. We just haven't learnt into this aspect of our work enough. Our way of measuring performance and testing activities has actually been developed outside of our discipline, and mainly by the accounting and insurance, world, where the goal has been subtly different to ours. And I think we need to rectify this.

Karen:
The quote that you are seeing on the board there, is from Ann Rowe. And Ann Rowe was an American clinical psychologist and a researcher, who studied creativity and occupational psychology. So its certainly appropriate that she sets the tone for the discussion today. And she said, "A good part of the trick to being a first grade scientist, is in asking the right questions, or asking them in ways that make it possible to find answers. It is in the asking of these questions, that we can discover what we should be measuring in our work places."

Karen:
The importance of identifying how best to measure performance and safety was driven home to me at a conference I attended in 2008. At that conference, there were AMP, Alpha investors, who spoke about how they looked at a company's safety performance in making decision on whether to invest. They found the companies that performed well on safety out rode the global financial crisis in 2007, and from that point onwards, I became really interested in looking at how to use measurement and reporting, to reflect success in safety. My initial conviction that safety could be used to indicate the overall health of a company, was a concern in an article in the Harvard Business Review by Michael Mel Bottom. He referenced a study by accounting professors Christopher Ittner and David Larcker, who found that companies that bothered to measure a non financial sector, like safety, and to their finding, it had some real effect on returns on equities, that were about one fifth to 0.5 times greater than those of companies that didn't take those steps.

Karen:
My need to understand how to apply measures that would indicate any difference my efforts were making in safety, as well as integrating into the organization's business model, led me into an unholy alliance with odd people, and accountant. Dr. Sharon O'Neil and I embarked on a voyage of discovery to bring the discipline of accounting measures to the world of safety. And this voyage of discovery is the foundation for this presentation.

Karen:
Performance KPIs for safety are a form of business intelligence, that provide information to inform decisions. Financial and organizational objectives and processes can actually influence work health and safety. So it's important that safety is integrated into the business model and thinking. However, it is important to realize that there is a difference in the role that executives and boards play, and the roles that management play. Boards are there to set the strategic direction, and manage business risk. They need work health and safety information that will provide assurance that risks are being managed, and appropriate resources are available.

Karen:
Managers on the other hand, manage the day to day business operations. They need work health and safety information that indicates how they are performing at the local level. The reports are not the same, and nor should they be, as the decisions that are required to be made, are actually different. So the phrase that's up on the screen at the moment is a phrase that I think most people are familiar with. This is the earliest instance that I could find of the phrase, that was printed in 1891, in a letter to the editor of the British newspaper, the National Observer, commenting on national pensions. Then Mark Twain had also used this to great effect. So it has been recently remarked, that there are three kinds of falsehood. The first to deceive, the second is a downright lie, and the third, and most aggravated, is statistics.

Karen:
So to take your reporting from just being a statistic, to a meaningful measure, you have to be very clear on what your objective is, in doing the measure, and what you want to change. Once you get your measure, you need to understand what the data is telling you, otherwise, the wrong actions can be taken. I've taken advice along the way, from the very best, and I would like to share with you, a statement by Professor Den Adel. He said, "The whole performance measurement area, is about trying to get people to think in terms of moving it from just data, to useful information. From information, up to knowledge, and then up to wisdom." That is, how do you get individual data items, and data sets, to the point where they can actually inform wise decisions?

Karen:
Also, there's the other comradery, to that which is, "We don't really want to go collecting data unless there's some decision point at the end of it." What's the point of burdening our businesses with more and more things to measure, unless you can actually show how that information can be used to decide something. Our role, is to identify what to report, who to report it to, and why.

Karen:
I think our first challenge is to actually understand where our organizations are at. There is no point in suggesting anything like a qualitive measure if your organization is just focusing on the absence of injury, and the cost of them. If all they think of is in terms of lost time, injury to come out and say, "Hey, let's do a safety culture survey to check if everyone thinks we have a dust culture embedded." I'm thinking that that won't work. A useful way to approach this challenge, you think of the way your organization actually sits on the maturity model. Patrick Hudson had suggested a five level maturity model, but there's been many suggestions over the time, of using a three level model. Personally, I like three. I think five is greater than academic model, with stuff and nuances, but I'm a practical person. I work with practical people, so I like to think of it in terms of, I'm no good. I'm getting better. I'm great with a continuous improvement agenda.

Karen:
Five or three, I think this will help you to understand where your organization's thinking is at. And remember that this is not a reflection of you, but it does provide and understanding of the challenge that you will face. Then our challenge as safety professionals is to identify where we want the organization to head, and then come up with performance indicators that will help them move in the direction that we want.

Karen:
When setting up your KPIs, you need to think through who needs the data, and what decisions they will be making, based on the data. This will frame what you will report. The KPIs shall help you understand what is happening, and should be able to be measured. What is important to measure, you need to make easy to measure, otherwise your KPIs will be the ones you can get, not the ones you want. And what a waste of time that is.

Karen:
Lost time injury rates have an undeserved reputation of being a useful measure to compare with other organizations. The reality is, that they do not give any indication of the fatality, as shown in the study by Stella Naomi, and [inaudible 00:17:11] in 1998. Lost time injury reflect high frequency, low consequence events, that provide little insight into disabling injury, or illness. Angela Hopkins maybe, we all with if you could see it, I said about lost time injuries. They are at best a measure of how well a company is managing minor hazards. They tell us nothing about how well major hazards are being managed. Moreover both normally attend to what is being measured at the expense of what is not.

Karen:
Now to focus on lost time injury can lead companies to become complacent about their management of major hazards. As a consequence of of focusing on relatively minor managed, the need for vigilance in relation to catastrophic events, has been overlooked. Clearly, the lost time injury rate is the wrong measure of safety in any industry, which faces major hazards. We would all be aware of the prior lost time injury measures, that preceded some of the catastrophic events that have occurred in the past. A point and case is Deep Water Horizon. I would also suggest that it can lead companies to also overlook the catastrophic nature of muscular skeletal diseases, as I have found in the past, in my own experience, and I will expand on later in my presentation.

Karen:
However, it may be prudent to keep reporting what is expected. It is a good idea to lean into what is already being measured, and then add in the performance indicators that would drive improvement. If lost time injuries are expected, then it may be easier to keep them, and introduce others to replace them over time. Without saying, saying a little bit different, different. A point and case that I'd like to share with you is, my daughter, when she was younger, hated broccoli. But she happily ate green carrots for a number of years, before she actually realized the truth. KPIs should be informing across different levels of the organization. How effective the controls are in place, to manage the risk to health and safety.

Karen:
There are broadly three types of controls. There's the technical controls, the cultural controls, and governance. And these come together to underpin effective management of work health and safety, but ensuring hazard identification and risk management is in place, at the operational level, for workers and supervisors. Leadership with a robust safety culture for the organization and effective oversight and control, at the executive and board level.

Karen:
Identifying potential hazards and risks can come from many sources, and these may identify some areas that should be measured. Hazards can be measured proactively, or reactively. Ideally, you use a combination of both. To go about identifying hazards proactively, you can look through risks that your organization already knows about, and has identified in the risk register. You may have identified them through audits, and inspections, or you may look at what has occurred in other organizations and apply that knowledge in your own organization. Sometimes hazards are identified the hard way, after an illness, or injury. Identifying hazards reactively maybe through injuries and illness, through a review, or investigation reports, to gain information on uncontrolled risks, or lessons learnt from regulatory activity, whether that be investigations, prosecutions, or fines.

Karen:
What you're seeing on the screen at the moment is a bank of hot sales in our boutique radio pharmaceutical production area. Now, we had years ago, long term manual handling, applying motor skill injury, coming from this work. You can see that the operator was required to look through a tiny thick glass window. They have to do remote handling through the manipulator, which is a long arm, that the people are holding. Now, these cells were constructed probably, 50-60 years ago, back in the days when nobody thought of ergonomics, and it pretty much was the top standard size work force.

Karen:
So what we had, with this manufacturing area, was an area where, to see in the window, you had to stretch up your shoulders to use the manipulators, or to hold the manipulators properly, you couldn't actually see in the window. And we had historical set of injuries around shoulder and wrist injury. And it was virtually invisible when I commenced with victimization, because they didn't go up on the worker's compensation. We brought them up into other jobs, but we had this rotation, where we get new workers in, and after three to five years, they would be at the point where they could no longer work in that role. And they'd be given another job.

Karen:
This was invisible, just using LTI reports. Our executive was ignorant of what was going on, and nobody could get visibility on the catastrophic nature of what we were doing to staff members. So my team and I introduced a new report, and we focused on restricted duty, because that was something that was not commented on. The number of people that were on restricted duty, or had actually been moved permanently to different roles. And all of a sudden, the executive was seeing a totally different view of the workforce, and view of what was going on in the area. And that led a whole lot of questions about what was going on, why was it happening.

Karen:
What came out of that was an improved maintenance on equipment. There were new bigger, [inaudible 00:23:02] windows put in so there was greater visibility, and people didn't need to scrunch to see through the window. There was a huge capital spend to get new equipment, and to get some mechanizing of the processes in there, so it didn't actually require the same number of manipulations to do it. And it preventive health program was introduced, that provided exercises through an exercise physiologist, and gymn exercises and Nadali program at gym to build up resilience, and strengthening. And we also introduced a process of immediate reporting of any integral that people got, so that there could be immediate action on what was happening. And what we found with these, is it pretty much made the whole issue that we were experiencing around manual handling issues disappear from this area.

Karen:
Using the traditional approach to classification of injury, has a number of limitations as well. Lost time injury slump, high frequency and low consequence events, and with low frequency, and with high consequence events, and that restricts your knowledge of how you are progressing with injury prevention. Using the approach, you can be surprised the focus is on the frequency of the occurring studies, how many are happening rather than the consequence of the occurrence. How bad it is. And it doesn't recognize impairments, that may not involve lost time, but result in long term damage. Things like hearing loss. This was certainly my experience in our production area.

Karen:
An alternative approach to classifying injury and illness is by severity. This provides a five graded validity and reliability in the measurement of both the financial and human injury and illness cost. What we get from these, is improved information to inform your organizational workforce and safety strategy. The severity classifications focus on the consequence of the illness and injury, from the perspective of the injured person, rather than the employer organization. Impairment is therefore a reflection of the time until a full recovery is achieved, and whether a full recovery is achieved, rather than simply time taken to return to work. The severity category draws attention to a high consequence class one, rather than the low consequence class two, or three events.

Karen:
This work has been a real high moment for me, and I am really indebted to the thinking that's been provided by Jess McDonald, and the work he did on this. For those who are located in Queensland, you might be interested to know that Jess was actually a Queensland boy, and he was the first recipient of the Safety Institute of Australia's lifetime achievement award. As I stated, due to real danger in focusing on highly aggregated loss time injury, or recordable injury rates, when monitoring injury and illness performance, because the low consequence injuries, "Oh, got another paper cut." Tend to far exceed the number of high consequence injuries, "Oh, I've actually chopped off my hand." Changes in fatal and permanently disabling outcomes, are relatively insignificant components of lost time injury and are therefore rendered statistically invisible.

Karen:
An analysis that was done by doctor O'Neil of state based workers compensation data, for the ten year period 1992-2001, was undertaken. It looked at approximately 408,500 workplace injury, and it showed that downward improving trend in total lost time injury rate, which is, absolutely great. And you can see that on the left hand side graph. However, when an impairment analysis was done one the same data, it showed that rising incidents of permanently disabling injury. Now this speaks both in some way to explaining why with lost time injury rate, tend to becoming down, workers compensation costs are still increasing, because we've got hidden data, that people aren't seeing. And this is actually an important message when you are looking at muscular skeletal disease, where the potential for ongoing disability is very high.

Karen:
Using the approach of classifying injury and illness by severity, you can start to relocate your investigation resources in a more strategic way, that is aligned with the impact or the potential impact of the incident. Non of us unfortunately, have unlimited resource, and its important that we know where to focus our efforts to actually make the most impact. A change of approach can also lead to an improved focus on control, to prevent any further injury, or illness where it is most needed.

Karen:
So, how do you improve the quality of the reporting based on everything we have discussed? You need to ask yourself, is your method of reporting making the impact you hoped for? So, on the screen you can see a table. And it's got a lot of really good information on it, but if you look at it like this, 11 fingers, five shoulders, leg three, head three, chest two, hand two, psychological two, knee two. Hello, is anybody still awake? Did you actually notice how I slipped in the psychological injury into that table as well? How do you actually make this to become real, for the people who need to make the decisions to allocate resources in the right way?

Karen:
So if you want to get attention from decision makers, you need to make it real for them. You need to make it pop from the page. And this way of putting it on the screen, that you can see, aligns to reporting with a severity based classification, and put forth as a picture. Suddenly the injuries pop, and a dialogue commenced. I have to acknowledge the work of Kirk Warren, for the little person. He was the one who first introduced me to the concept of putting all the injuries on a person. They focus on it right away. The executives concentrate right away. "Why are we having head injury. I didn't realize we're having head injury. What on earth does it mean to have an injury on the head? What are we talking about there?" And the work of the classification by severity is a lot of work being done by Maria prior. And so executives can see straight away. Why am I reading class one? What on earth is going on? What conversations do I need to have with you about what's going on there?

Karen:
The next thing to think about, is, are your KPIs lead or lag? Now Dr. O'Neil said that it's all in the timing. It can be lead or lag, depending on when you're measuring. For example, if we're measuring training, training conducted, is a lead indicator, and the effectiveness is a lag indicator. However, if there's been an incident, training effectiveness would then become a lead indicator and then injury is a lag indicator. Now, this way of thinking has really done my head in. It's accountant speak. However, its important for us to start thinking in the terms of the business, if we want to be understood, and have impact with the decision makers and stake holders in the organization. We need to understand how they're taking our message, and we need to put our message in a way that they're actually going to understand and have an impact with them.

Karen:
A useful way to think of these is to consider lead indicators as the useful aspects of the implementation of the control process. Lag indicators reflect the output or the outcomes of the process, and provide information on the effectiveness of the control. An example of this would be consultation. The number of staff, consulted, is a lead indicator, as it gives this information about the implementation of the consultation. The number of staff suggestions we adopt, is a lag indicator, as it gives information about how effective the consultation was.

Karen:
Identifying KPIs in this way can also be useful for integrating and indicating organizational responsibilities, for work health and safety and the consequence of decisions made across the organization. You can highlight the impact of human resourcing decisions by looking at rosters that identify say, staffing levels, as the number of shifts operating below this level. The impact of procurement decisions can be highlighted by looking at the percentage of the contracts stating work health and safety criteria and the percentage of contracts leading to costs. This is work health safety criteria.

Karen:
It is important for us to state to professionals that we talk the language of the business. Most business risks are managed using one of four strategies. Avoid, reduce, transfer, or accept. Work health and safety risk is different. There are legal requirements that mean two considerations distinguish our risk management from the practices used to manage other forms of business risk. First the choice of strategy available for controlling work health and safety, is limited by law. Second, the role that cost benefit analysis plays in decision making processes is significantly reduced in our world. So, if we look at the four strategies used by business to manage risk, and apply it to the world we know, avoid, we actually like that, because that equates to level one of the hierarchy of controls. Reduce, we like that one too. That equates to level two and level three of the hierarchy of controls. Transfer, for us, it is actually not possible, to transfer work health and safety risk, and accept, that is so not possible, particularly pertaining on the consequences of that risk.

Karen:
How far do we take it? This would depend on where the organization is at, on the maturity scale. Or, your risk profile may be telling you, that you need to expand the scope of your reporting. For example, psychosocial might be a big thing for you, but supply chain, particularly, if you're working in across the country, and across businesses, might be something you need to think about. Organizational decisions might be the area that's having the biggest impact on the work health safety.

Karen:
The fact that you need to consider depends on your organization, and where it operates. Do you have national or international considerations that brings with it variations in legislation and standards. What industry factors do you need to consider? What's your expected profile, what's the nature of the work, and what's the risk that it brings? Then we arrive at the organization factors. The maturity level of your people and your management. The organizational infrastructure, your resources, and I said it before, there never really are enough of them, and your structure. The number of KPIs you require will change as you move through your organization too. There'll be more KPIs at the operational level. Remember, differently caught wealth, requires different information.

Karen:
To be useful, a KPI needs to have certain attributes. It needs to be robust, and well chosen to inform the effective design and management of space and healthy work. You need the right tool. Don't rely on generic work health and safety indicators. I am afraid to say that you can't be like the lady in the café, in 'When Harry met Sally' "I'll have what they're having." Another organization's maturity level may not be yours. Their industry may be different. I would say, weigh the desire for benchmarking, against your need to have KPIs that are useful for informing sound work health and safety strategy and practices in your organization. Consultation is essential. And not just because consultation tells us to do it. If you understand the use and likely impact of the KPIs, you will ensure that the KPIs you adopt are both relevant, and valid.

Karen:
Finally, you need to provide scope for continuous improvement of the quality of evidence, relating to both work health and safety conditions, and performance. It is our role to take our organization on a journey, whether they want it or not. So, I would suggest, it all starts with the right question. What knowledge do I need? What controls need to be in place? What would drive performance? How do I know that it is actually working? I started my quest many years ago, with a question. "How can I measure my success in making my work place safe?" My talk has taken you through my journey to find the answer. The new questions I have asked myself, and the wonderful brains that have provided me some answers. I let a scientist open my talk, and it seems appropriate to let a scientist have the last word. Albert Einstein said, "If I had an hour to solve a problem, and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask." Thank you very much for your time.

Susan Johnson:
Wow, well, Karen I think evident by the people that all stayed, we didn't lose anyone through that grouping information. And who would have thought measuring and KPIs would keep us all transfixed? We've got a bit of time just, a few minutes for questions. Thanks again Karen. I do have a couple of questions. I guess one came through just around the body, pictures, and whether that can be attained. We do have a hotspot data on our website, but it might be an interesting job to get up as a design though. I'm not sure what program you use in delivering that information, but it might be something that our department can do. Is there any -

Karen:
Sure. What I do is, we can talk off line about this. And like I said, Kirk Warren came up with the concept, but Maria Prior who is in my organization has adopted that. And I can talk with Maria and we can have a conversation about making it available to other people.

Susan Johnson:
That would be great. We do, and I would say to anyone, we do have some great figured hotspot data on our website, and harm related data. So it's certainly something that resonates. Another question, I guess was, you mentioned having very meaningful measures, and I'm aware that a lot of large organizations they'll have measures required, or they'll look at measures of their subcontractors, and their supply chain, around awarding contracts. I just wonder if you can comment on a recommendation to those organizations around what would be better generic measures. A lot of them do use LTI, as far as that measure. Is that something -

Karen:
Yeah sure. I'm happy to comment on that. And you know, I've got to say, this is my take on the world, everybody, so just be aware of that. LTI and LTI applied is so firmly ingrained into safety DNA that its really difficult to get out. And I know that there's a lot of contracts that rely really heavily on that. But if I had the world to reach scope, the kind of things that I would be really interested in getting a subcontractor to tell me about is, understanding their whole risk activities. Do they actually have an understanding of their whole risk activities, and what's their incidence by consequence. I'd really like to understand that and I'm also interested in how proactive they are. Are they meaningful about closing up their action?

Karen:
TRIFR is one that I think I better to be looking at, instead of an LTI, but TRIFR focusing on the number of fatal injuries and illnesses and the high consequence, not fatal injury, so that you start to understand what their profile is around that. Also, when we're talking about investigations, how fast they're closing investigations out, rather than let things linger. Are they very proactive? And I spoke about, doing the business risk. So the other thing that I'm playing with, across our organization and I think this is quite telling as well, is looking at your actions and breaking them down according to the hierarchy of control. So where you're actually putting your investigation. So, what kind of activity are they doing around high consequence events that they're having? Is it all coming down to just training, or are they actually making class one changes, and controls being put in place? But this are some of the things that I would like to see. I think would be a more meaningful dialogue, back to companies, to understand who you're inviting in to do your business with.

Susan Johnson:
Absolutely. Music to our ears. I guess another one that's come through is, he's interested to know, what's ANSTO? Do you have any constants that you stick by? You mentioned about driving certain measures. I guess, from your own organization, is there anyone that's just always, should be there?

Karen:
Look, for us, where radiation is probably our biggest high risk activity, we will never go away from reporting on radiation. At our radiation events, we want to know everything that happens in that area. So we're quite meticulous in gathering all that information. We also want to look at those exposures, so we would never go back from not looking at those. The other things that we're looking at is, events, like incidents. When you look at our incidents reports, risk reporting, we like to see, and we break that down across the business divisions, so that we can see what's happening in that area. We like to also look at the classification of those events, that they're reporting. And we're actually starting to classify against consequence, and potential, not just against what actually happened. So something that might not have actually resulted in an injury or even a mechanical breakdown, might actually get reported as a moderate or severe, based on the potential consequence that could have happened.

Karen:
I don't think we'll ever detract from doing those. And the other things that we're very strong on doing about operation events, so that we're understanding our process safety, and what we're reporting against our equipment, and how that works.

Susan Johnson:
Thanks Karen. Someone's actually typed in, just to ask a little bit more. For those not familiar with TRIFR, if you can just explain that a little bit more and expand.

Karen:
Oh, okay. So, TRIFR is the total recordable injury rate. So it's everything. It's sort of like your fatalities, it's your injuries, it's your first aid. So its getting the full picture, of what's going on, not just the lost time. And look, I think I might have mentioned. I'm not actually in tune with lost time injury, during the course of my talk. I don't know if anybody picked up on that, but my disenchantment with lost time injury started years and years ago when I was trying to put out a matrix together, and we had an executive who was very keep to do benchmarking at by the organization. And we've always had a very meticulous reporting culture, where we gather everything in, and we had been very cross on what's going on. As I spoke to you, we had a lot of manual handling injuries appearing. We would report all those. It didn't matter how furious they were, even if they were [inaudible 00:44:17]. We would actually record them as a potential injury for the person.

Karen:
And then I started to try to benchmark against organizations who would define lost time injury as one where they've been off for a week. And then another organization defined them that, "Once we've got an accepted worker's compensation claim, we would call that a lost time injury." And I was going crazy thinking, "Oh my God. I'm benchmarking myself against people who have got a very broad definition of how they're measuring their performance to what I was measuring. So a TRIFR is a much better way to do, because you can actually pull all those together to actually start to get a more cohesive measure, that you can actually compare it, if that's really what you want to do.

Susan Johnson:
Great. Thanks Karen. I'm mindful that we've got some more questions coming in, but we're also out of time. So, what we will do is, I'm sure Karen will be happy to look at those offline, and we'll put those responses for everyone to read. I've noticed people are having to head off to their next activity, but look, Karen, that was fantastic. I've learnt more and a lot. We're really grateful for the time and your busy schedule, and also as you highlighted, thanks for people to joining us. This is really important information that we just need to get out to as many people as possible.

[End of Transcript]


Last updated
10 December 2019