21 Jan Five ways to predict your health and safety future more effectively
Surely the holy grail for all safety professionals is the ability to predict every accident before it happens? If we could do that then an accident-free workplace becomes a reality.
However, as a challenge this one ranks up there with the building of the pyramids, the first climbing of Everest or putting a man on the moon. In other words, exceptionally difficult but possible given the right resources.
So, how should we go about getting there?
Well, in no particular order, here are my top five ways to predict your health and safety future more effectively:
Beware the black swan
Ever heard of the black swan? It’s an event that was never thought possible but happens with surprising regularity.
Well, people regularly get caught out by the black swan effect by focussing too much on recent past events and using them to predict the future. The financial crisis is an example of this.
Whilst historical accident data is important, it doesn’t necessarily predict what will happen in the future so beware of that when you’re using it for learning purposes.
Change the measure for everyone
One of the great things about running a safety culture programme is the immediate focus on more proactive measures like safety conversations and culture assessment information etc.
It’s worth making sure that everyone in the business (especially leaders) recognise the importance of using these measures as a source to learn from and benchmark progress against rather than relying on traditional accident/incident rate measures.
The more they do, the better the quality and the more the associated information can be used as an effective source to learn from.
Get the right technology in place
The right software can help enormously when it comes to predicting accidents, especially when using enormous amounts of proactive discussion or observational data to show you where your major risks are.
Doing this manually using Excel or ineffective software can be frustrating at best and misleading at worst. I’m required to plug our own Engage software here which does the job superbly, but of course other tools are available.
Learn from the discussions people are having
Narrative is incredibly important in a business if you are to understand people’s real concerns.
It’s very easy to just focus on the quantitative information and use that as a basis for prediction i.e. numbers of discussions against a particular behaviour. However, the discourse around this can often provide a rich source of knowledge which isn’t necessarily represented in a tacit way through the data you already have.
Yet it’s here where the true risks may reveal themselves. This kind of information can be picked up more informally through one-to-one dialogue, meetings or even via social networks.
Learn from other companies (think laterally)
I’ve spoken to many companies who, after a catastrophic incident in some area they hadn’t previously considered, subsequently realise that the same thing has happened to many other organisations. This happens all too often.
What catches them out is that those other companies work in dissimilar industries. However, after having worked across different industries I’ve seen that there are surprising similarities across companies that appear to be doing very different things.
So, keep your mind open to learning from all sorts of sources.
Do you have any suggestions? Post them to the comments section below.