Here is an interesting question. What would safety management look like in your organisation if you did not have to “prove” it?
Would you still make your workers do Take 5s? And if your workers had to do a Take 5, would you collect and file them?
Would you document a pre-start, safety review of a job in a JHA? Would you make your workers sign it? Would you collect, and file completed JHAs, and then keep them for years?
Would you think a safe work method statement added any value to the management of hazards?
Would you make workers sign a Permit to Work, and then collect, file and keep those?
Would you keep your hazard reports on file, even though the hazard has been closed out?
Would you make your workers document and sign pre-start and other workplace inspections? If you did, would you collect, file and keep them?
Would you make managers document their “safety” conversations with workers?
Would you make workers sign a document to say they have attended a pre-start meeting?
Would you make workers sign a document to say they have read and understood all of your safety procedures?
What would safety look like in your organisation if, instead of focusing on the collection and collation of pieces of paper we focused on training, competence and supervision? If we said to workers:
We have given you the skills and knowledge to understand the hazards associated with your work and how to manage them, and we trust you to apply those skills and that competence diligently
What if we said to our supervisors:
We do not expect you to do any administration.
Your job is to be in the field with your teams helping them to identify, understand and manage hazards. Our expectation of you, as a supervisor, is if we come and talk to you about a job, you will be able to tell us what the job is, what the hazards are, how the job is being done, and how the hazards are being managed. And we expect all of the members of your team will have that same level of understanding.
What if we said to managers and leaders in our organisation:
Your job, whenever you are in the field and having conversations with supervisors and workers, is to confirm they understand the hazards associated with their work and how they are meant to be controlled.
What if, instead of focusing on whether 100% of the paperwork has been completed, we focused on building confidence that everyone in our organisation understood the hazards and how they were meant to be controlled?
What if we accepted we cannot “prove” safety with completed documentation – we can only prove safety through the understanding demonstrated by our people? We can only prove safety when our people, through their conversations and actions, demonstrate an understanding of the hazards associated with their work and how those hazards are controlled? Because this is what happens in practice. After an accident, you need to be able to demonstrate your people understood the hazards in their business, how they were meant to be controlled and the hazards were consistently managed in accordance with the controls. It is not your documentation and processes which prove this – it is what your people did and what your people say.
If we accept that all this, what would safety management look like in your organisation?