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Safety clutter and what to do about it

Safe Work Month and Mental Health Week 2020

Speaker: Dr David Provan, Leading safety thinker and practitioner.

This interactive session discusses how to identify safety clutter - the accumulation of safety procedures, documents, roles and activities that are performed in the name of safety but may not actually contribute to the safety of operational work and can even increase risk by creating negative beliefs and attitudes.

- Good morning everyone. On behalf of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, welcome to yet another of our special presentations. This session is titled Safety Clutter and What To Do About It, and will be delivered by Dr. David. Provan, a leading thinker and practitioner. I'm Chris Bombolas, the Media Manager at the Office of Industrial Relations, and I'll be your host for today. Firstly, can I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today and pay my respects to their elders, past, present and the merging. I'd like to extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples watching today. Safe Work Month is held every October, and is all about raising awareness of work health and safety. This year, Safe Work Month is a little different, thanks to COVID-19. If health and safety in your workplace feels way down by paperwork, rules and procedures, this is the session for you. Today we'll learn how to identify safety clutter, the accumulation of safety procedures, documents, roles and activities that are performed in the name of safety, but may not actually contribute to the safety operational work and can even increase risks by creating negative beliefs and attitudes. Standby, David's going to tell us what to do about safety clutter and how to remove it, including how to declutter without affecting legal compliance and certification. David is the former General Manager, Health, Safety End environment for Origin Energy. He has more than 20 years of safety management experience across several high-hazard industries with international operations. He's the Founder of safety consultancy firm, Forge Works, and also a part-time lecturer and researcher at Queensland's Griffith University. David has a bachelor of behavioral science psychology, master's of health science, risk management and OHS, masters of businesses administration, finance, and a PhD in safety science, where his research thesis was titled, What Is The Role of a Safety Professional? The Identity, Practice and Future of The Profession. Certainly well credentialed. And remember, there is a Q&A session at the end of David's presentation. And if you have a question for David, feel free to submit it via the chat box on your screen at any time, and we will get to as many of our questions that we can. So let's head down to Melbourne and welcome in David Provan.

- Thank you Chris. And thanks to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland for putting on such a great series of events, but most importantly, thanks to everyone who's joining. It's a strange world at the moment in Melbourne as I'm sure it is for everyone, but it's really to know that there might even be about 2,000 people that are joining me in this conversation this morning about something that I'm really passionate about. And well, I suppose I'm not really passionate about safety clutter, I'm really passionate about the opposite of safety clutter, which is safety effectiveness. And I think that's the question that we wanna get to today, which is how effective are the things that you're doing in your organization for safety to reduce the safety risks that your workers face? And so safety clutter is a term that we coined when we started looking at all these things that organizations do and what works and what doesn't work. And it's kinda like looking around your house at all the stuff that's in your house and how useful all of those things are for the way that you live your life every day. So what I want you to do first of all is maybe start by thinking about what you do in your organizations to keep your workers safe. So you're probably thinking about the forms that they fill out, the procedures that they follow, the training that you give them. And then want you to think about what you do around your own house. So do you do vehicle inspections before you drive the car to the shops? Do you do a JSA before you take the kids out on a bike ride? So what do you rely on in your life outside of work to keep yourself and your family and that safe, and how the same or how different is that from what you rely on in your organizations to keep your people safe? And some of the fundamental assumptions that we wanna address in this conversation today. And that fundamental assumption is what is this relationship between the safety work that we do in our organization and the safety of work? And how safe our work is when people are carrying it out. And I really like this image, and it's not mine, but it's one that does the rounds quite often on social media. But is it safe to be putting up a poster to remind others of being safe and is it a safe practice the way that that person is going about that safety activity? I recently, well, not so recently, but last year, put a pool in at home. And I'd watched the guys sorta dig the hole for a couple of days and excavate, and there's this sort of a small company, what they were doing. And then one day they asked me casually what I did, 'cause I've been kinda watching them work every day and watching them excavate and do about their work. And I said, I was a safety professional. They're like, oh geez, well, geez, you won't see any safety here. And I'm like, well, what do you mean? They just come across a difficult challenge with a large rock and they'd stop the work, they talked about it, they'd bring the machine over, they planned out how they were gonna carry out that task, they managed safety exceptionally, and then they got their work done. And that was the conversation that I had with them, which is like, that's actually what all of the things we're trying to do in organizations for safety is trying to deliver, and that's the way that you guys work. And so I really want us to be critical about how we're managing safety in our organizations and because it might be easy to think that this is not an issue. All the safety things that you've got going on in your business are directly and measurably contributing to the safety of work, and you just drive compliance harder to those things that you expect people to do. But I want you to reflect on that assumption, and I want you to think about how your workers actually work and what keeps them safe. And don't be afraid of being uncertain about your safety work and how it's actually being used and what it's doing, because that curiosity, that uncertainty, that questioning mindset in relation to this activity is exactly the first principle of managing a high-reliability organization is thinking that things may not be as you think they are and going and finding out how they're actually working. So when we think about safety clutter, we define it as this accumulation of persistence of safety work that does not contribute to operational safety. And we know this, I suspect that there's no one listening to this conversation today that can't think of a thing that they see in their organization or that they've seen in their career, which is being done for safety which doesn't help, a form that needs to be filled out, a meeting that people need to go to, a training course they need to take. That's why the safety profession gets talked about as being the fun police or when the safety person turns up, work suddenly changes. And there's lots of good reasons why this stuff exists in... Maybe not good reasons, but there's lots of reasons why this exists in organizations and lots of reasons why it's hangs around, and we'll talk about some of those, but there's really no reason for you not to do anything about it, because in safety, we really need to think about where our investments are going, and what that investment is actually doing for reducing risk in the business. So up until now, I probably haven't told you anything that you might think, okay, that's fine, I get it, I get it. We've got to try to understand this connection between the safety things we do and safety, but how do I do it? What do I do next? And that's what we answered in a paper that we wrote about how do we find safety clutter in our organization? And there's three questions that we should ask every single thing we do in our company in relation to safety. The first is what's the contribution of this activity or this practice or this rule or this requirement or this form or this training course or this audit or this investigation or this inspection, what's it doing for safety? And I suppose in the past, that's where we've stopped, just making an assumption about that question, that's where we stopped. So we're like, okay, we want people to inspect their vehicles before they drive them to make sure they're in safe working order. Okay, so how do we make sure that people do that? Okay, well, we're gonna make them fill out a form or a checklist when they drive. Okay. Okay, we want them to fill out a form every single time they hop in the vehicle, and then we want to submit that form on an iPhone app so that we can see it. And so all we're thinking about is this first assumption which is if we can create a connection between the things that we ask people to do and what we think it might do then we just think that that's good enough to just throw it into an organization and expect people to do it. And that example I just gave about vehicle inspections, we've known for 20 years that pre-use forklift inspections haven't even seen bold tires. And so that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone about that just becoming a compliance activity rather than anything that meaningfully reduces risk. So the second question that I suppose is the starting point of finding clutter is going, how do we know that it's working? So we might assume that's clutter, right? We we've got these forms in place, but how do we know it's working? And I was at a mining site year before last and they were telling me how good their type-five process was which is their pre-start risk assessment process. And I said, okay, that's fine. I said, we get hundreds filled out every day, that's good, and they had a box there which was their pre-stuff asked for the month. And I said, okay, that's good, yeah, everyone does it every day. That's good. That's awesome. And I said, so how do you know it's working? And they go, well, people are filling it out. Okay, well, no, what's it meant to do? Well, identify hazards and resolve hazards before work starts. All right, cool. So now we know what it's going to do. So how do you know that it's doing that? Well, people fill them out. As in that doesn't answer the question. So I said, okay, let's get the last month's worth of box. And we tipped out 8,000 of these cards. And just to prove a point or just to help this company move forward, we went through every single one of those cards, and there were two that identified a hazard. And so you can do the math 7,998 roughly that were just tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, sign off. And so those two were by the same person on consecutive days. So what was fortunate, the person was on shift and we went and found them and said, oh, so when you filled out this form, what is odd? The response was this machine wasn't working. So I made a note of it, didn't do the job that day. And then came back the next day, filled out the form again, machine was still broken, submitted my form, came back the third day, ah, the machine was still broken, job needed to be done, so I've got it done. And so, and then just kept ticking boxes that everything was fine from there on in. So I think that this idea of how do we know? How are we really being sensitive and close to the way that our organization is using the safety processes and practices that we put in place, and just getting things done, or all the surface compliance is not enough? And so that's this confidence. So every single safety process and practice and critical control and activity that you do, you should have some clear idea in your mind of what it's actually trying to contribute to your organization, and a clear, I hesitate to use the word measure, but a clear feedback loop about whether it's doing that for you or not. And then the third one which is do all stakeholders agree? And this is really important dialogue in your organization. What does the safety team think about what you're doing? What does management think about what you're doing? What does the technical specialist think? And most importantly, the people who are kept safe by the process, what do the workers think? Do they all understand the why? I think Simon Sinek would say, start with why I do. Does everyone understand why this process and practice is important? Because what we've learned in safety clutter is mindset is probably the most important thing. I gave an example about pretty starts. You can have the exact same process in your organization, and you can have someone who sits there on a Sunday afternoon, which is the old, the 2 B a form, which is they have two B's on a Sunday afternoon and pre-fill their take-fives for the week so they only have to write the date on it and the time of when they're doing the job. Or you can have a take-five where where a group gets together and they meaningfully discuss the way that work's gonna happen and make changes and alterations to the way that they're going to perform that task. Same process, same organization, different impact in an outcome. And you don't just get that by telling people to do it that way. I think we all know that people are more complicated than that. Just on that consensus, I just wanna give one more example. We recently did a project with a large organization and their safety team, about 150 people. And we listed about 25 things that they do in their organization for safety. So all those things, I said, safety audits, lifesaving rules, permit to work, safety alerts, investigations and all of these things. And I asked the safety team what they feel on a scale of one to five these things contribute to safety risk reduction for work, where work happens. And more than half of those things got a mutual response, which means there's at least half the safety organization in that business that disagree that half of the things they're doing are contributing to actual safety outcomes in the business. And that should really, well, it upsets me. It should really upset everyone who's listening that we're just not diligent and deliberate enough to know what the things that our organization is doing around safety is actually having in terms of an impact on risk reduction in the business. So there's three C's that you've got there that you can actually look at every process in your business and say, what is this meant to contribute? How do I know if it's doing that? And do all the people relevant to this practice agree? Great conversation to be having with your business. So why do we have this safety clutter in our organizations? And when I started, we, I mean Dr Drew Rae at Griffith University, Prof. Sidney Dekker, myself and others, we talk about this as being, it's so easy to add safety work, there's so many opportunities. You will have every single day, today, after you leave this, you will have an opportunity today to add more safety into your organization. Every safety audit, every safety meeting, every safety management plan that you develop, every strategy, every... Is so many opportunities in every safety discussion to do something else. But there's actually very little opportunity to take safety things away. I've got an example of an organization where at one point they had a procedure for for journey management for vehicle travel where they had a form that you had to fill out where you were going from, where you were going to, what route you're gonna take, where you're gonna have your break, and your manager signs it off, and that's your journey plan. And then a couple of years later, they put in an in-vehicle monitoring system which was obviously a technology that was real-time information where every vehicle is, what the status of that vehicle is, monitored 24/7 by an operation center. And they were still doing the form. And so I said, why are you still doing the form? Aah, we need to know where someone's going and where they plan to take the break. And I said, well you know where they are, and you can communicate with them, and if anything goes wrong, they can communicate with you. So why do you need the form? Ah yeah, well, actually we probably don't need it anymore. And it was just this mindset of actually, and do it as an experiment, which we'll talk about soon, try and stop something in your organization for safety, even if you know that light vehicle inspections are doing nothing, even if you know that the pre-start risk assessments are doing nothing, even if your induction track people are falling asleep in your induction training, even if you know your audits aren't finding anything meaningfully, it's a really challenging space to actually stop that. So that's why we wanna write about this and talk about this because unless you can have conversations about how effective your safety things are, any time you try to challenge something for safety, you're automatically worried about being seen to not care about safety. So I don't wanna do this form because it doesn't help. Well, no, you don't wanna do this form because you don't care about safety. That's the initial response, or well, this form doesn't help, but if we take this form of why there's an accident, then we're all gonna go to jail. And none of those things are true, but we're just not able to have the nuanced conversation about safety. So we leave this stuff in our organizations. We leave it for a very well-intended reason. We wanna be safe, and we just keep putting of this stuff that we think is going to give us this safety into our businesses. But fatalities aren't reducing, there's several countries around the world in a, well, not in a COVID year because there's been less work happening, but at least in 2019, that had the largest number of fatalities in industry that they'd had for one or two decades, most of the developed world in fact. So it's very easy to add this stuff. So the question that we should ask ourselves, well, maybe the question that you might be asking me is why should we care? So if we wanna do all this stuff for safety and some of it works and some of it doesn't work, then, well, let's not take stuff away because maybe 5% of the time it works, or maybe occasionally it might work or we don't know if it works, so we're happy to fund it, we're happy for our people to do it, let's just leave it there. And what I would say is it does matter, and you should care, because when we've researched this and when we've looked at it, is it actually makes safety worst. And that's one of the most ironic things. The more that some organizations invest in trying to improve safety, the less safe they get. And so just think about that for a moment, that this clutter in your organization, the clutter around your house might make your life a little bit less satisfying for you, but the safety clutter in your organization makes your organization less safe. It damages employee ownership of safety. The more things you tell your people to do, the less space they have to solve problems for themselves with their teams, generate ideas and take ownership over how they do their work. The less opportunity they have to differentiate between what's a high risk, what's a low risk, what's an important process, what's an unimportant process? And if they see or are involved in a whole lot of unimportant things for safety, the assumption gets formed that everything that gets done for safety is not helpful. And we've seen these with companies, for example, permit-to-work systems. They go, well, we do permits for high-risk activities, and that works, we think. How about we do permits for every activity? And so now you've got people doing five or 10 times the number of permits that they used to do. So you know what? They get really efficient at being able to fill out the permits, and they no longer think differently about the 20% of jobs that are actually really high-risk. So the you've got the more things you have, the less clear it is for people to kinda see the trees for the forest, if you like. It's bad for adaptability. We know that our safety activities maybe don't survive normal work, they definitely don't survive disruption or emergent issues. It's like no plan survives first contact with the enemy. You might think, Oh, well, anytime something changes, I expect my workers to stop their job, do another pre-start risk assessment, assess what's changed and then restart. Doesn't happen. And I just make that as a statement, it doesn't happen. Our processes aren't designed to support our workforce to deal with emergent issues and be adaptable. And you only need to know that by how many incidents that you review or that you investigating your business that says, oh yeah, but on this day, something was different. There was one less person, the weather was different. We had less time, the equipment was different. So your processes aren't solving those challenges enough for your workforce. It erodes trust in psychological safety. The more you require people to do things and the more you push them to comply with things, the less things that you hear about in terms of what's going on in your business. And ultimately creates this additional trade-off. We keep pushing these expectations onto our workforce in terms of the safety things that they need to do, but do we give them more time and resources to do them or do we think about the fact that by doing this inspection every single time they have to hop in a car, that might add 30 minutes to their day? Do we give them 30 minutes of less work, or do we expect them to find that 30 minutes either by compromising the integrity that we'd like in the safety process, or by finding ways to make the rest of their work more efficient and potentially increasing risk? So these are some examples, but there's a whole lot of things that having ineffective, unnecessary and unhelpful safety work in your organization does to actually make your organization less safe. So how do I deal with it? A couple more slides, and then I'm really keen to get some questions from the group. So start having conversations about the effectiveness of your safety work activities. It is a great thing for you to do as a safety person or a manager to start having open conversations with your workforce about how safety work gets done. And when I say safety work, all of these safety things in your organization, how does it happen? How do people actually do it? You'll quickly learn how open the communication in your business, how much psychological safety and trust there actually is by what type of answers that you get. Are you gonna get the... And I suppose be worried if you get a conditioned response. If people tell you, no no, it's good. Yeah, we do it perfectly, yeah, it really helps, yeah, we think we should do more of these forms. Yep, we can't wait for the next process that you give us to follow, that's an organization that I would be very worried about in terms of its safety. So have open conversations about this, be the leaders that actually say, we're curious about whether this is helping be safe. What do you think? What do you think? What do we all think? If you've got processes in your organizations like learning teams, you use those processes on your safety work activities, and try to find out what is actually happening in your business. The second thing I'd say is stop adding more stuff. Have this... So everyone's afraid to take something away, you should be as afraid to add something new into your business. Unless you can answer those three C questions about something, and this is everything. This is an audit action, this is an investigation corrective action, this is a safety strategy or a safety plan, unless you can answer those questions of how is this going to contribute? How are we gonna know if it's going to be making that contribution? And what do all the stakeholders think about it? Then don't put something new into your organization in safety until you can answer those questions because it's unlikely in the long run to be effective. Find the low-hanging fruit. So show your organization that the sky's not gonna fall in if you start taking some stuff away. So what I'd say is you'll find something really fast that no one thinks is helpful and you've got no evidence to suggest that it's helpful, and take it away, and the sky's not gonna fall in, and your organization will focus a bit more on other things and other things for safety, and that will be good. And follow that up, like I said, with a controlled removal trial. So again, based on the three C's, find out what's happening, change something, take something away, show the change that that's made and use that to go bigger in your organization. And the last one there is really passionate as Chris introduced my PhD thesis, but really think about what role you want your safety people in your organization to be playing. Do you judge their success by how much safety work they put into your business and how much safety work gets completed? And that's gonna drive them to push things into your organization that haven't, I suppose, been as rigorously thought through as I'm talking about in this presentation. So think about how you judge or how you create expectations around your safety professionals, about the effectiveness of what's happening in your organization around safety. The effectiveness of the new ideas that they suggest and the effectiveness of the existing practices in your business, and drive them to undertake a number of things that I've been talking about in this today. If they can go a week and bring you information on what's actually happening in your business around your safety work activities rather than give you suggestions for what else you should be doing, then that's probably been a more useful week to you as an organization, then keeping doing the shiny new things. I just wanna finish with the research. So look, there's been a number of projects that we've run through the Safety Science Innovation Lab and a number of other projects that have been run globally around some of these things about this connection between safety work activities and the safety of work, whether it's audits, whether it's risk assessment processes, whether it's all sorts of safety programs. These safety work has very little to do with how people work. So like I said, they might spend 15 minutes at the start of the day filling out forms, but then when they start their actual work, what they've done around safety beforehand has very little to do with how they actually work. It mainly actually just creates work for your supervisors, and that actually pulls them away from doing what you might want them to do in terms of supporting and supervising work. And obviously, like I said before, it's less impactful in changing circumstances. And so what happens when you take it away? And when we've done some controlled clutter-removal experiments, and I say experiments quite deliberately actually with control groups and experimental groups, we actually see that when we take the burdensome and unnecessary safety stuff away, proactive safety behaviors during work increase. People kinda think that if they've done the safety things before the job, then safety is taken care of. But if you take that away, that actually builds safety into the work. And we see more proactive safety behaviors during work, we see better compliance with the things that are left in because if the team thinks, well, you've taken away the unimportant stuff, the stuff you've left must actually be important, and we agree that it is. Communication improves, teamwork improves because people don't rely on forms to report things. They actually have conversations and communicate, and obviously productivity, less time doing peripheral work in organizations, there is more time spent doing core work. So that's what I wanted to say. Where can I go for more support? There is a website,, where you can fill out your own organizational safety clutter scorecard. There's a program that starts in February next year that I'm going to be instructing, which is a 12-week bootcamp for safety professionals under safety, which is called Advanced Safety Professional Practice, which is gonna deal with all these issues about how safety professionals can do this. And then for the last year every week, we've been producing, Dr. Drew Rae and I have been co-hosting "The Safety of Work" podcast where every week we get a safety practice and we go through the "Safety Science Research" and we communicate to you all as practitioners about what does the research actually say about these safety activities, and how does it actually contribute or not contribute to the safety of work? So thanks everyone for the time. Thanks Chris, and really looking forward to 15 minutes of questions.

- Absolutely. Thank you very much David. And we have a number of questions already. If you do have a question for David, remember, enter it in the chat box, give us your name and the question, and we'll get to as many as we possibly can. David, the first one comes from Ella. And Ella says, can you provide an example of something that you thought was safety clutter that actually turned out to be really effective? So it can be vice versa, can't it? You're talking about decluttering, but we can also, when we're doing a review, come up with some really positive things.

- Yeah, thanks Ella. Great question. So I was at a mine site in Papua New Guinea a while ago, and they were asking me and our business to help them do this. They wanted their whole mine site to be decluttered essentially. And I said, well, you can start with the pre-start risk assessment that I've mentioned a few times. And I said, why? And the managers and the safety managers said, well, it's not effective. And I said, why? And he said, well, because it's in English because that's what our global headquarters require it to be in, but none of the workers speak English, so it's not effective. And I'm like, well, do they get filled out? Yeah, we get three or 400 them a day. And I was like, well, how does it get filled out? And so we're like, well, let's try and figure this out. And when we actually looked at this, what happened was the supervisors all spoke English. And because work's really valuable, what the supervisor was doing was sitting down at the pre-start meeting with 10 or 12 workers with 10 or 12 cards laid out and asking, what do you think about this job? What do you want me to write down on your card for you? What do you think? Oh, no, that person said that. Do you have something new to contribute? What do you wanna do? And the supervisor will fill out these dozen cards. And it was in 20 years, the best pre-start conversation that I've seen in my career. And this thing that managers and the safety professionals thought was an absolute obvious piece of clutter was probably the thing that was most keeping that mine site. You know that, right? Had no injuries for years in that environment. And I think that that process was the central thing to actually delivering that. So until you go through those three C's, you just don't make any assumptions about things.

- Yeah. And the questions keep coming. Maria's given us one. And she says, from my experience, David, it is often clients that requires such a safety clutter, any suggestions on how to overcome this?

- So look, the contracting environment is really tough 'cause clients to do what a whole lot of stuff to get done. I think the first thing would be asking your clients what they actually want. What's the outcome that they want you to deliver? What are they actually looking for? And try to have those open conversations with them about what's gonna be useful for you as a contractor to keeping your workforce safe. So try to minimize that where you can. Otherwise is not nice, but to think about what do I give to the client, and then how do I manage my work slightly differently? And I know recently, Josh Bryant won AusIMM Award in the mining sector for Mitchell Services, which is a mining services company, and they work with the largest mining companies in Australia, and they've been able to balance this, how do I manage my organization, and how do I work with some of the largest companies in the country? So there's ways of doing it. It's not always pretty and easy, but I'd still be looking at what's gonna be the most impactful for your workforce.

- Yup. Thanks, great advice David. Jess has given us a question as well, and thanks to everyone for joining in and our Q&A session especially. Keep those questions coming. Go to the chat box, give us your name, give us your question and we'll get it to David as soon as we can. Jess has asked, can you provide the worst example of what you have seen in relation to safety clutter in an organization, something that was just a total mess?

- Oh, worst example. Yeah look, there's lots of those examples. I think I touched on the one that I thought, which was the 8,000 take-fives with green and nothing to see here on the start of every single job on a mine site for an entire month. And I don't wanna pick on mining because it's no different than in construction or oil and gas but those things that you expect people to do every day that they just have to do every day, those are the obvious candidates. So I think that I'd probably just in the interest of brevity, I'll probably throw it back to that example.

- Christine gives us this question, and it's a similar line for a number of our viewers here today, David. So it's a question that, they've similarly asked, how do we prove to the regulators that we are doing something safe if we don't have the evidence? So there's a few questions based around this.

- Yeah, look, and I'm fortunate to have some good relationships with some of, I suppose Australia's leading OHS lawyers. So like at Seyfarth Shaw, Michael Tooma, Clyde & Co or Greg Smith. And I'd just touch on Greg Smith for a minute, who wrote a book "Paper Safe". It's a great book for people to get their hands on if they were written by a safety lawyer for organizations to say all this paper stuff in your organizations that you think is keeping yourself safe is not actually what due diligence is all about. And I'd probably throw out to the regulators here. They're thinking about this really, really hard. People like And I know that there's a regulator forum that's coming up shortly that they're gonna do a whole day on some of these different ideas and what it might mean for how they regulate. So I appreciate all of these questions about historically, regulators are interested in the paperwork and they have been, and they are, but I guess I'd hope that they're more interested in the effectiveness of those activities that you've got in your organization and actually not having accidents. I think it's the best way to not be in the eyes of a regulator is not to have the accident. So what I'd say is decluttering is probably likely to prevent the accident. There's some necessary paperwork in safety, we know that, but we know also, I'd just add from a Deloitte Access Economics Report in 2014 that two thirds of everything that we do in our organization at least is self-imposed company requirements and not regulatory requirements. So it might apply to some things but it doesn't apply to everything that you do.

- David, you mentioned Michael Tooma, and I'll just share a story. A very impressive, I'll want him on my side, I was at a conference a couple of years ago as an MC, and heard him speak. And my word, that was impressive. And they're the sort of people you want on your side.

- I'd probably say Chris, before the next question, if you do end up in a situation where you go and take this sort of decluttering forward and you do have a unrelated and unfortunate incident, then yeah, get Michael Tooma your lawyer and call myself or someone else has an expert witness, and I'll be really clear to the courts about why this was the best approach for you to be taking.

- The questions keep coming, David, so you've gotta be on standby ready for these. Celia asks, how do you bring senior management along for the journey? We've all heard the buzz terms now, buy-in, that sort of stuff, but how do you get the senior management along?

- Yeah, thanks Celia. Yeah, good morning. Good morning in Perth. I'm assuming that there's not more than one Celia on the line. So look, I think I'd use two words with my executive, which is effectiveness and efficiency. And those words resonate with senior leaders, and they should also resonate with safety people. Our job is to support work to get done, consistent with the company's objective, but also the support work to get done safely, which is an important objective. So we can use all these buzz words like buy-in and that we can use these safety buzzwords like safety too and safety differently and even decluttering and things I've been talking about today, but talk to your executive about what I'm interested in as a safety person is every single thing we do in this company for safety, how effective is it at what we think it's there to do? And I don't think that's a question that any senior manager that I work with or any director that I work with on a number of boards would be disinterested in the answer to. And that's why I said at the very start, maybe let's talk safety effectiveness, not safety clutter.

- Thanks for joining us everybody. Alice in particular has a question for you David. She says, can you provide some examples of clutter that organizations have eliminated based on these discussions and discoveries?

- Yeah, look. So Queensland Urban Utilities have done with their chat, like their pre-start risk assessment, and we talk about that a lot, 'cause it's something sort of that's pretty universal across the industry and that, but they've taken that to a verbal process. So they don't have to fill out forms, they don't have to write it down, did it in a very controlled way, involve the regulators in that process in Queensland where you guys all, are and train and support their people in how to have the conversation, which is what they actually wanted the form to do. But what you learn when you look at this is the form doesn't drive the conversation about risks that you expect to happen. What happens is the apprentice sits in the truck and fills out the form while people start setting up the job, and then the other guys come over and sign onto it. So actually thinking about how to do it and then going, well, actually the form is part of the problem. We're better off giving people the capability in how to have the conversation and then supporting and enabling and feeding back on how that conversation's going. So that's one great example of going actually, how do we get out of our own way and get some stuff done? So I've seen companies stop auditing, I've seen companies stop investigating minor incidents and actually making a decision and saying, we're not gonna investigate everything, we're only gonna investigate things that we think we can learn from, and put all our resources into that basket. So I think you could probably look across every practice and find an organization in the last couple of years that's either remove something or re-engineered something in a pretty significant way.

- We've had this request from a number of people. David, can you summarize the three C's again for us quickly?

- Okay. Okay. And you can get the slides and I can send you papers, and hammer me on LinkedIn or anywhere if you want me to send you anything through, but contribution, confidence and consensus. So being absolutely clear how that thing that you're doing contributes to safety. Which risk? In what way does it help? How confident are you? What feedback, what information what data, what gives you that belief that it's making that contribution? And then the third thing is consensus. If everyone doesn't agree then no one agrees about the need to do it. So that confidence, contribution, confidence and consensus.

- Again, the questions keep coming, so stand by. Tony, this is from Tony, how do you ensure that the removal of particular paperwork does not expose the company legally? Like you've touched on that earlier in your presentation, David, but Tony wants to know specifically how can we avoid legal issues because we're removing certain types of paperwork?

- So look. Thanks Tony. Sorry, I'm not a lawyer, and like we've mentioned already a couple of far-better people to provide this sort of safety advice. But I think any defense, a defense is exactly that, what are we doing and why did we think that that was the way that was the most appropriate way to act in a number of major disasters? You don't have to look past any disaster for independent investigation to be super critical of the things that don't add value. I think the Chemical Safety Board in the U.S. was so critical of the fact that they had seven different risk management systems that were meant to apply to the jobs that were happening on the at that time and said, it was completely unrealistic for the organization to expect the workforce and the local management to even know how to put those systems and processes into into action consistent with the way the company expected them to. So I think if you look at Greg's book on "Paper Safe" actually all those things that you've got in your organization for safety and all that paperwork is probably actually setting up the prosecution more than it's setting up your defense, because if they can just show that that paperwork wasn't understood, that it wasn't followed, or one time it wasn't filled out, then they sort of demonstrated that your safe system of work wasn't actually reliable and effective. So I just don't think that legal liability, while it's rational. Well, sorry, it's irrational, while it's emotional for people, it's not a rational way to think about our liabilities as organizations. So I know that's easy for me to sit here and just say, but if you're doing the work to understand how effective things are and changing or removing the things that aren't effective, then that's the best defense that you can build yourself.

- Which is interesting because I got back to the Tooma situation, because Michael said at one stage, as a prosecutor, it was great, 'cause he quite often turned what the defense thought was a strength into his strength and turned it against them.

- Yeah. And if you say we wanna pre-task risk assessment done before the start of every job and that's in your system and that's in your whatever, and people didn't do that before the job, they had the accident, then like you said, that's all that's required on the other team, not on your team.

- David asks, since from your comments, David, aimed at you, that safety obligations to devolve in the frontline or a decision making at the coalface. How does that inform the role of safety professionals?

- Yeah, so absolutely. So you wanna provide two things, capability and autonomy to your workforce. So one doesn't come without the other. I wouldn't give autonomy to people who you don't have confidence have the capability to make, let's say good decisions, and also then obviously giving capability and then having hugely capable people with no autonomy is a sure way to de-motivate anyone. So those two things go hand in hand, so at the kind of frontline. So that's the first part of the question. Sorry Chris, I forgot the second part of question.

- [Chris] Yes, me too. Let's go back to it.

- It's all right. It's all right.

- We'll go back. How does that inform the role of safety professionals?

- Ah, got it. Got it. I knew there was a second part. So yes, absolutely. So look, safety professionals need to be really focused on what's happening in their business. Think of yourself as a sharp-end operator. You're not a blunt-end administrator in your business that's tabulating statistics at the end of every month and preparing PowerPoints. You need to be actively engaged in how work is happening as a safety professional, how people are making decisions, and what they need and what they don't have, and then facilitating decisions to be made in your organization to support your people in what they need at the frontline. So if you've got no feedback loop and your reporting system or your hazard reporting system is not a feedback loop, if you've got no direct feedback loop from your frontline, then you're really flying blind as a safety professional in your organization.

- Clearly a lot of people have questions. So we're gonna keep going. We're gonna run a little over time today, which doesn't matter. We'll send the checks in the mail, David, for you to do go a bit over time. But keep them coming. If you have a question, go to the chat box, give us your name, give us your question, we'll get to David as soon as we can. Ken echoes what we hear quite a bit, that unfortunately, legislative compliance is the bigger contributor to safety clutter, and we hear that a lot. How do you remove clutter and still demonstrate compliance? 'Cause there must be a fine line, David.

- Yeah, there is. But I think I'm probably not gonna answer that the way that the answers might be the way that the answer would be like to be given. But I think there's, so safety risk existing your business every single day. And I want every person on this call to have a think about how many times in their career they've been prosecuted, and how many times in their career they've had an improvement notice versus how many serious accidents they've had in organizations that they've been involved in. So risk exist in your business every day to your workforce. Prosecution risk maybe exist once in a career, for if you're unlucky as a business. So you only need to look at the enforcement regime and the number of visits that WorkSafe inspectors do. So I don't wanna downplay that, but I wanna say that when we do these safety clutter conversations, when we ask people, and it may be the question that I can ask everyone in this call, what's the biggest barrier to you removing something in your business that you know is not effective? And we know that two thirds of the people will answer that question with, I'm not gonna remove that in case I expose myself or my organization to legal liability. And one third of you will answer that with, I'm not gonna remove something in case I take something away that actually keeps my people safe. So I know the questions are gonna keep coming about legal compliance and they're always gonna be there, and as much as lawyers write books and as much as we look into case law, I don't know how we remove that. But I just leave those two things with people is what risks do your workers face that gives you, I suppose, how frequent are those risks that your workers face that should motivate you to make safe work practices more effective, versus the risks that you might face in terms of legal liability or voluntarily expert witness, any of you, if you follow these sorts of processes and you end up needing to defend yourself of why this is the right thing? So apologies, I didn't answer that the way it was questioned.

- All right, let's move on to Gary. And thanks for watching today, Gary. And Gary asks, you've touched on a number of safety myths, David and I think people need to be aware of these. One related to your talk is the more data, the better. Can you comment on sometimes less is really more, and should we be cautious about big-data initiative?

- So look, data is absolutely something that can be useful, and it can be misleading as well. So it's not necessarily about the amount of data, it's the the right data that you have as an organization, and what decisions you need to make and how it's informed. So I don't think there's anything that you'll be gathering in your organization in relation to safety that's useful for you making decisions about how to keep your workforce safe. The number of safety activities that people complete, and that we've, I mentioned the podcast there, we did an episode on safety indicators, leading, lagging and all these things we do and show that, well, the research shows that none of them really help you. But what does help is operational data. So what's happening in your productivity, in your maintenance, in your expenditure, in your human resources and all of this operational data that exists in your business, and finding ways, and we work with some organizations to bring that data. So when you sit down at your next safety management meeting, throw your safety report away and get a report from finance about who's over budget, who's under budget, which projects are overrun and delayed? Are people spending their maintenance budget? Are they not? What's going on in your equipment? Where have you got new managers? Where are you missing resources in your frontline safety-critical roles? And use that data to have a conversation about what does this mean for safety risk in our business, and what do we need to go and get better answers to? So big data can be really useful if it's the right data.

- Thanks everyone for your questions. And thanks for your answers, David. This is probably a good way to wrap up the Q&A session with a question that comes from Sheridan, and it's a beauty, where can I get more information about safety clutter and some other ways to implement in our business?

- So Sheridan, great question. And like I said, email me, ask me for any of those papers that we've written, anything that I can do to provide... Let me send that through to you, but yeah, look, I don't think you'll have to go far to Google Safety Clutter, join the conversation on LinkedIn, reach out to me. Like I said, it's You can do a scorecard for your organization that asks you a few questions about what and gives you a report. So there's ways you can do this. But I think I'd say in this presentation is really all that you need to get started. Start talking to your people in your business about how effective the safety activities are, and what people really think, and make decisions from there.

- David, great way to wrap up today's session. I'll give you a question without notice. Can you just give us a few key take-home messages from your presentation from all the questions that we've had just in closing?

- Yeah, look I'd say is don't make any assumptions about the relationship between safety work activities that happen in your organization and the safety of the work that your workers are performing. So that will be the big takeaway. Don't make assumptions. And so if you're not gonna have assumptions, then you're gonna have to go and find out how your safety work things are being done, and what all of the people in your organization actually think about that. And be brave, be bold, make decisions. And if you're making decisions in the interest of what's effective for keeping your people safe, then that's all anyone can ask, whether it's a worker, a regulator, a family of one of your workers or your board as well. So have that single-focus mindset on how effective is the safety work things that we do?

- Thanks very much, David. We might wrap it up there. I'm gonna say to you, enjoy the day in Melbourne 'cause you're in four walls, but you're still in lockdown. So you can't actually go out and enjoy it like we can in Queensland.

- No, exactly right. Exactly right. But I'll tell you what? There's, it must be 1 million Melburnians who are gonna flood your state as soon as your premier lets us come across the border.

- [Chris] Oh, yeah, well, he's kept it locked for a little long longer.

- Who knows?

- Yeah, thanks very much to Dr. David Provan for joining us today. And to you guys out there who tuned in, I hope this was very, very, very useful, and you can take it back to your businesses and workplaces. And we thank David again. Thanks David. Enjoy the day. Don't forget there are still loads of free virtual events to enjoy during Safe Work Month, including a session on stress-resilient leadership, intelligence-enabled work, health and safety, and even a chat with ex-Olympian Hayley Lewis. And the really really good news, it's not too late to register. You can also access heaps of free resources from our website,, and it's new and refresh the work, the website. So please take a look at it, grab some of those resources. They include industry and topic-specific video case studies, podcasts, speaker recordings and webinars and films to help you improve your WHS and return-to-work outcomes. And David's, the good news, David's presentation will be up online very, very shortly. So if you missed something, you wanna go back and check something, it'll be up online on our website very, very soon. Again, ladies and gentlemen, thanks for tuning in today and supporting Safe Work Month 2020. And remember, work safe, home safe.