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Safety in Practice

Video transcript of the WHS Inspector Forum presentation – Safety in practice.
Presented by Kym Bancroft, Queensland’s Urban Utilities on 3 December 2020.


Moderator:

We’ve got Kym Bancroft from Queensland’s Urban Utilities.  And Kym’s going to be sharing a story about how Urban Utilities has become one of the leading organisations implementing Safety Differently over the last three years and how they’ve turned the theory into practice. Kym, please take it away.

Kym Bancroft:

Excellent. Thank you everyone so much for having me along.  Thank you to Martyn Campbell for the invitation to share Urban Utilities Doing Safety Differently journey.  Queensland Urban Utilities, we’re the wonderful world of water and sewerage here in Brisbane.  Some of you might know what we do.  Some of you, it may be new.  So, we’re a large water distributor here in Queensland.

To kick us off today, I want to take us back to the late 1800s where, across Europe there was a great debate raging in the field of astronomy.  One school of thought said that God created man in his likeness and therefore placed man on Earth, and therefore the Earth is at the centre of the solar system. Now, along came a gentleman by the name of Galileo Galilei, who we all know of, and he said and theorised, using his rudimentary tools of science, that actually the sun is at the centre of the solar system.  Now, you can imagine that greatly angered the Catholic Church.  They placed him under house arrest.  He had to undergo an inquisition and he was forced to recant all of his theories about science.  Now, we all know in this story which theory was correct and which one wasn’t, and it wasn’t until the end of Galileo’s life that a more liberal thinking pope came along, and he was allowed to publish his work.

Now, the reason why I tell that story is because it’s a great and beautiful illustration of the difference between dogma and doctrine.  Doctrine being something that’s based on something that’s known, based on law, something that’s known to be true and held to be true and backed by some kind of scientific evidence.  And dogma being something that seems true, so a principal or a set of principals laid down as undeniably true yet lacking in empirical evidence.  The whole point of that story is to draw the comparison between how we used to think back then and how we think about safety and how we practise safety today because it seems like a lot of what we do in the safety industry, from someone’s perspective who works in organisations practising safety, is based on dogmatic thinking in that someone down the road comes up with a good idea, another organisation, perhaps it’s marketable, perhaps everyone seems to be doing it and we jump on board that particular initiative or approach or practice without actually checking to see if there’s actually any efficacy behind it. Because in safety, we actually have a huge body of peer reviewed scientific research at our fingertips which Sidney and Drew and Dave have spoken about today, and it gives us a wealth of knowledge and a really great sound base about what works in safety and what doesn’t.

Let’s have a look at a couple of examples of how this plays out in our modern day.  A good example would be that of Zero Harm. Sidney spoke about how there is no research to demonstrate that companies with a Zero Harm mantra actually reduce their likelihood of having a fatality.  Another good example is Safe Spine.  You might be familiar with Safe Spine, it’s a little stretching type initiative that people do prior to starting work to reduce muscular skeletal injuries.  And while I like that initiative because it’s social and it gets the guys moving, it has zero efficacy toward reducing musculoskeletal injuries, and what does is actually participatory ergonomics.  And yet, we probably invest a lot of time and money in those kind of initiatives like Safe Spine.

What I want to do now is just to put this to the test and let’s have a think about – let’s take a common practice, let’s say a traditional written Take 5.  That’s something you could go anywhere in the world and you will find some kind of version of a written Take 5 that companies are asking people to do.  We’re just going to pop up – Caitlin’s going to pop up a little poll for us to have a go at. And the question is – so Caitlin, you can pop that up now if you like – how many peer review journal articles are there published that clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of pre-task written risk assessments?  Are there 15? Are there 20?  Or are there zero?  Once we’ve got those poll responses, Caitlin, if you could just read out the answers for me, that would be great.

I can’t actually see those answers, so has anyone got them there for me?

Moderator:

So far, we’ve got one is coming in pretty hot.  And we’ve got one response for 20.  We’ve got somebody’s responded at 15.  The majority of people are pushing towards the one.

Kym Bancroft:

Okay, great.  Well, those people would be correct.  There actually is only one published research study that says that there is effectiveness for pre-task written risk assessments.  Now that one lone journal article was actually slightly misleading because it actually had a lot to do with the supervisor who was on there. Now, that’s a great example to say there’s sometimes not a lot of efficacy behind these activities.  Now, I’m not for a minute suggesting that we would do away with pre-task risk assessments.  Of course, not because they’re so valuable to us and so essential.  My point is, how often do we actually study the effectiveness of them and how we do them and how we can actually improve them. Very much at Urban Utilities, as we operationalise Safety Differently and embarked on this journey, we’ve tried to really push this idea of evidence-based safety to improve operational safety. Very similar to what Drew and Dave talk about, we’ve taken those principals and attempting to put that into practice.

Now, for some of you, you might be saying, yeah, that’s what I’ve been trying to do, or that’s what I’ve been espousing for such a long time.  Why is this suddenly new or different?  Well, it’s not really.  It’s just that perhaps the pendulum has swung too much the other way to taking on that dogmatic thinking and perhaps it’s time now that we shift it back to that evidence-based approach.

At Urban Utilities these three principals of Safety Differently that Drew and Dave and Sidney spoke about: empowering people as the solution; enabling capacity for positive outcomes through insights, so yes, still looking at what goes wrong, but also looking at what goes right.  And safety as an ethical responsibility instead of a bureaucratic responsibility.  I don’t know about you, and I’m sure there’s, given the cohort that I’m speaking to today, you’ve probably had similar experiences. I had one early on in my career when I was working at an open underground coal mine down in the Hunter Valley.  There’d just been a fatality and I was sitting opposite a gentleman who had just seen his colleague been killed and I was really struggling for the right thing to say to him.  And I don’t know about you having seen similar fatalities in industry, none of us want to see that again and certainly for those families as well.  For me, that’s really why we are pursuing this quite rigorously, is because we believe that safety is an ethical responsibility, more so than it is a bureaucratic accountability for those who aren’t necessarily exposed to the risk.

Here's the model and here’s how we’ve actually put this into practice.  Now, of course this is just one element of our safety approach.  Of course, we have other initiatives and other improvements made around all the other facets of safety that are required to make up a good holistic safety approach. Just in particular to this though, we took a large-scale discovery process, we put that into practice just to find out what the frustrations were in the field, what was working well and what wasn’t.  We then designed and implemented a number of tools and methodology and bespoke safety leadership program to take all of our delivery partners through and our frontline workers all the way up to the board to share with them this information about Safety Differently.  And then we have some of the tools there that we’ve started to put into practice and actually operationalise.

Let’s just go first to that discovery stage there.  Here’s a few of the things that our guys were saying prior to putting this approach into practice.  One guy said, “Stop blaming who does wrong, encourage people to report near misses and incidents.”  Well, clearly that wasn’t happening to the degree they thought that it should be.  “Listen to the reasons incidents occur.”  “Break down the fear culture of safety compliance.” “Stop using PPE as a way of making tasks safer”, that’s quite concerning.  “Need to walk a mile in my shoes program.”  And, “You need to trust us better.”  There are some nice strong messages there obviously for those of us who have been working in industry a long time, these would sometimes be consistent across different organisations.

We took that information and we brought that into the whole change process around Safety Differently.  This is a little infographic of the Safety II Safety Differently training that we did. You can see some of the key mistakes in there.  Now, the leaders who went through that, they came back, and they gave us great feedback about the program.  And someone said, “It was the best training I’ve done.  It was ridiculously interesting and on point.”  There’s no point in an organisation putting people through training that’s really interesting unless it’s very practical and actually makes operational safety better. That was really the key focus of this, was to improve that safety of work that Drew spoke about.

The three ways in which we have operationalised this, I’ll just take you through those now, so the first one is the process that Drew and Dave have called decluttering. This is decluttering of our whole safety approach and also decluttering of our safety management system as well.  Safety clutter is defined as the accumulation of safety procedures, documents, roles and activities that are performed in the name of safety but do not contribute to the safety of operations.  Just going back to that feedback from before, you can sort of see how we had a little bit of an issue in this area based on some of that feedback coming through. Certainly, we have a bloated safety management system and the over-compliance part that was self-imposed was very much crippling the guys out in the field. They were very frustrated and very cynical about any safety activity that came that way.  Now, you could safely assume that many Australian companies have this same issue.

There was a report that came out from Deloitte a few years ago, and they said that Australia has a really big problem, and the colour of that problem is red.  And of course, they were talking about red tape that’s stifling innovation and productivity across Australia.  They said that we spent about $14.3 billion on critically important rules, so all of those things that we need to remain legislatively compliant.  Of course, they’re not going anywhere.  They’re there to stay and they need to be there and adhered to.  The report then went on to say that we spend an additional $85.7 billion on unimportant, non-essential, non-regulated compliance-based rules that are self-imposed.  And that’s what we’re starting to target as we go through this decluttering process at Urban Utilities.

You would remember this model that Dave and Drew introduced us to before. This is just represented a little bit differently.  You would remember how they spoke about the safety work being operational safety and then everything else gets put into that safety work section there.  As a safety function, we will often look at and see, in terms of all of our resources, our budget, our time, where are we spending that predominantly?  Are we spending it on social safety or demonstrator safety at the expense of operational safety?  And that just helps us stay aligned to ensuring that whatever we’re doing actually increases the operational safety.  Because as a safety practitioner, I think certainly we can get a little bit over-invested in the social safety and demonstrated safety, especially after a serious event occurs.  I think that’s when I probably see it the most to be occurring, when you get that knee-jerk reaction from a company that says we really want to show that we do care about safety, we want to show you guys that we care, we want to show our customers, our stakeholders.  But sometimes those things that we then put in place don’t actually aid and create operational safety.

Let me give you a short example of this.  A couple of years ago we had this campaign.  I’m sure everyone on the call would be aware of it.  It was called the Personal Big 5 campaign and you write down the five reasons why you come to work and be safe.  You might say your dog, your partner, your kids, hopefully not in that order of course. But it wasn’t a bad campaign.  I would say it probably really sat in that demonstrated safety bucket.  One of the guys came to me, one of our leaders, and he said, “Kym, loved that campaign.  Why don’t we get the PB5 hand embroidered on all of our field uniforms?”  Inside I groaned, but I said, “Okay, look, what do you reckon that would cost, just out of interest?”  Sort of thinking maybe $80,000, $100,000, so I said, “There’s a toolbox talk tomorrow. Let’s just head out to the field and let’s ask the guys what they think about that idea.”  So out we went to ask our water industry workers what they thought of that idea. I pitched the idea to them.  I said, “Would that little hand on your uniform make you safer?”  Now, you can just imagine the response that I got from those guys.  And then after their laughing died down, I said to them, “It will probably cost about 80K”, and they said, “Kym, here’s a list of all the things that you could spend the 80K on that will actually make our job better and, more importantly, make our job safer.”  I thought that was a nice checkpoint to get that dose of reality there. Sometimes what we think will make people safer won’t actually.

How does this look in practice?  Let me give you an example of something that we’ve done recently.  Going back to that idea which we all have of our pre-task written risk assessment, which we call in our company the WRAP.  The WRAP’s been in place a long time.  And during the discovery, we got this feedback coming back loud and clear about the WRAP.  As a safety manager, obviously yes, this – and I’m sure you’ll agree with me – this feedback’s very, very concerning.  The guys are saying that the WRAPs stay in the folder and just get rid of it.  One guy said, “A lot of the content isn’t relevant once you’re on site.”  Someone said, “It’s been greater than six months for most blokes even looking at them.” Pretty concerning.  “Remove the WRAP and it won’t change the way we work.” Now that’s interesting.  Does that mean they’re already doing thorough risk assessments or not?  And then this one here said, “No value.  It’s just used to cover your arse.”  What we did was we went through a process of decluttering the WRAP.  That doesn’t mean we’re shortening the questions or anything. We want to make sure the WRAP increases and enhances operational safety in doing the risk assessment and mitigating the risk.

Working with the guys, collaborating through with them through the consultation process, we came up with The CHAT.  The CHAT is still a thorough pre-task risk assessment.  We just removed the written component for it.  Working with the guys, we came up with seven questions that they all used to get together and to assess any job that falls into the criteria of being a basic or routine task.  We designed this process with them, removed the written component and then took them through a training session with verification of competency.  And then obviously tied it into our health and safety assurance process as well, so we can just check that it’s still being effective.

Some of you might be thinking, hang on a second, not too sure about that.  What about – it’s okay for those guys out in the field, but how does that stack up with our legal team?  How does that stack up with the board, our executive who carry a fair amount of risk?  Now, if we’re really honest, a lot of the clutter we create, is it there to actually serve operational safety or is it there just to cover your arse, as someone said in the comments earlier this morning?  And if we’re fearful of taking something away, what is really our number one concern? Is it the safety of the individuals or is it that we’re fearful of demonstrating compliance and we want to have bureaucratic accountability at some point?  We can still demonstrate compliance through this process, but we are less concerned about showing that to someone else, we’d rather just prove it to them.  But just to be sure, I’ve pulled out the big guns to help us out with this, so we went to Clyde & Co, Michael Tooma, to give us some formal legal advice on whether it’s okay from a legislative position to declutter the WRAP.

Here’s what Michael Tooma said.  He said there is no express obligation to implement documented risk management processes in the Act, Regulations or Codes.  Whatever obligation exists relates to proactively managing the risks. And then he obviously went on to talk about the traceability of implementation of risk controls.  Now, we do have a written component which relates to the SWMS and any specialist or complex work that the guys are doing.  This non-written component is only for basic and routine tasks, so just to be really clear on that.

What I’m going to do now is I’m going to flick on a little video, so you can hear it from our guys how they’re perceiving The CHAT and how it’s actually helping them out in the field.  If you can’t hear the sound, please let me know and I will fix that for you, but we should be good to go.

[Video plays]

Is this how you used to do your risk assessments, Nick?

Yeah, so we used to arrive on site and basically sit in the truck and punch out a few details, have a walk around and fill out a few more details.  But now we just basically walk outside, have a look and see what we’re doing and then discuss a plan of attack and complete it.

Great. What about the transition to The CHAT, how have you found that?

On bigger jobs like Ann Street and [Newmarket], where we’re doing 900 main repairs.  When things changed on site, we’re able to react a lot faster and discuss safety impacts as well as job impacts quicker rather than having to go back to a tablet, fill out another piece of paperwork in order to assess it.  It’s quite valuable.

What’s the job you’re doing here?  What are you faced with here?

We have a wet weather surcharge clean-up that’s currently overflowing into the creek. Hopefully it has stopped overflowing. What we’re going to do is most likely hose the solids and the matter back into the manhole that it came out of and then try and keep as much of the matter back from going into the creek as well too.

[Next worker]

Talk about the difference between the WRAP and The CHAT, what you thinking?

Well, mate, in one word, I think it’s streamlined.  We like to – it makes the process a lot quicker.  And because of that speed, we can have a better communication between the team.  Where before, we were sort of – someone would do the WRAP in solitary and then try and disseminate that information, now we’re sharing information, so my traffic controller might make me aware of a hazard or make the team aware of a hazard really, so we all come together to bring all the hazards to light and then everyone, before we start the job, is aware of it.

[Next worker]

It gets everybody on site involved instead of having one person writing everything out and then having the conversation together amongst everybody on site.

[Next worker]

I think The CHAT actually improves safety because you’re actually physically having a conversation, you’re just not ticking and flicking a piece of paper.  I feel it’s more important and you can get a better message across about safety.

[Next worker]

Because we can communicate with each other and get the job done a lot quicker and a lot safer because we’re all acknowledging what’s there together.

[Next worker]Basically, we’ve got a big blowout in this pipe.  Water was still on when I got here, so helped shut it down. Basically, scope out what the hazards are.  As we pump it out, you can see all this bank caving in.  As we’re waiting for a gas spotter, we’re going to cut this bank back, make it safe, open it right up.  We’re going to fill the bottom of his hole, so we’ve got something solid to stand on.  Obviously, we’re working around, so our spotters just showed up.

Tell me about how has The CHAT improved the way that you guys do work?

Less time consuming basically.  You’re not sitting in the truck doing paperwork and then handing it out to everyone to just sign.  It’s more of a get everyone involved, show them what’s going on and they can see it in the flesh.

[Video ends]

Kym Bancroft:

There we go. That’s The CHAT.  I think the well-intended process of documenting the risk assessment, I think over time sort of started to backfire and they really did habituate to that process and it became that tick and flick.  Now, you could argue and say that they could do the same with The CHAT. Yes, absolutely.  We’ve got a pretty rigorous assurance process wrapped around that as well.  But certainly, we’re really happy with how that particular Decluttering process has landed.

The other thing that we’re doing in relation to Decluttering is this process called Usability Mapping that takes applied psychology and usability science to ensure that no operator, no field worker anywhere in our company or certainly the world, if you were going to do it in other companies, perform a procedure that does not follow the laws of human cognition and behaviour.  It’s really funny how we, when we’re writing documents in our safety management system – we just revised our asbestos management plan recently and it was a beautiful document, all 70 pages.  And any one of you could have come out and asked for it, and it’s completely – it’s perfect from a legal perspective, from a regulatory perspective.  However, for the end user picking that document up, it’s going to take them a long time to find out all the key things that they need to know in managing asbestos.  I believe we will continue to injure workers whilst our documents are beautifully and legally and fully compliant, unless they are usability mapped.

The idea behind usability mapping is that it reduces any comprehension errors.  A lot of our guys have low literacy.  They may not have even completed Year 10, so to pick up these documents that have high literacy level does not help them in any way shape or form.  UX mapping reduces performance errors, so when they’re actually out there under stress, under time pressure, they can remember what those critical controls are through their training and through the procedures.  And it just ensures that the procedure can do what it’s intending to do, which is to guide safe behaviour even when under stress or under time pressure.  You can see a UX mapped document there.  It’s quite a lengthy process to take it through UX mapping, so we’ve only just commenced that, but certainly if you were to visit one of our sites in the next year or two and ask for any document from our safety management system, hopefully it will be UX mapped because I certainly believe that’s a crucial part of the Decluttering process.

The second thing we’ve done to operationalise the Safety Differently principals is to introduce a process that we call Work Insights.  This is a shift away from the typical behaviour-based leadership observations and it does two things, it compares ‘work as imagined’, so how the job should happen according to a procedure or standard or how we think it should happen, and it’s contrasted against that blue squiggly line there called the ‘work as done’.  The ‘work as done’ is how it actually happens.  The ‘work as imagined’ is how we think it happens.  The peaks and the troughs in that blue line is all of the variation that our guys need to absorb day in, day out.  That could be a time pressure, missing tools or kit on the truck.  It could be they’re down a resource.  It could be an irate customer.  It could be that they turn up to the job and it’s completely different to how when schedule called it through.  They need to – and our guys do, because they’re the masters of the blue line – they absorb that variation day in, day out to keep it close to the black line.

What we want to do in setting up a lead safety indicator is study normal work before an incident has occurred to see if the blue line is drifting too far from the black line. For you guys, when you go up to an event where there’s been a serious incident, we would say that the blue line has strayed much too far from the black line and hence, something catastrophic has occurred.  We want to make sure, through the Work Insights process that we can discover where that drift has occurred and closely align the blue line with the black line.  We’ve set up this Work Insight process for critical control working sites and normal working sites to go out there and proactively look for the drift in order to prevent and improve safety before something catastrophic happens.

Let me give you an example of a Work Insight that spurred a really large project in our organisation.  Like many organisations, we have golden rules and high-risk activities.  One in particular that would cause a lot of frustration, which we weren’t really aware about for some time, was the driving safely rule.  Now, you can see everything written on there, it’s all sound, it’s all against what’s legislated, except we had a particular component in there that said workers were not allowed to take a phone call whilst driving a vehicle.  Some companies allowed Bluetooth calls to be taken and other companies do not. We don’t permit calls to be taken via Bluetooth or handsfree in any of our vehicles.

We were out doing a Work Insight.  This was one of our HSRs, Jeremy.  And he was very – because we’ve increased our psychological safety, he was very open in saying, “Guys, that particular part of the golden rule, there’s huge amounts of work around.  There’s huge amounts of drift away from the ‘work as imagined’.”  And he was kind enough to share this picture with us of him actually with his headphones set up whilst driving, which is obviously contravening the golden rule.  That Work Insight, where we could identify actually, most of the guys are taking Bluetooth calls from schedule.  Are we comfortable with that level of drift away from the black line?  Do we actually need to change the procedure, or do we need to do something different?

What it led to was a significant project that we engaged CARRS-Q with around driver distraction.  We now will be permitting drivers to use Bluetooth when taking work calls that are transactionary in nature.  But we’ve wrapped it around a much larger driving distraction campaign and a lot of training on how to use your voice commands and whatnot in vehicles.  Certainly, don’t want the guys setting up their vehicles for work meetings and extended workplace, but certainly they can take transactional calls because that actually – that picture there is actually a little bit more hazardous than taking it on Bluetooth.  Not sure if we would have discovered that if we hadn’t had used that Work Insight process. It’s just led to a lot of really great discovery and a lot of great improvements across the business where we can align the ‘work as imagined’ with ‘work as done’.

The next one is this idea of Restorative Culture, which Sidney touched on a little bit before.  It’s tapping into this idea that blame fixes nothing and response matters.  I could talk for hours on this one.  And I think some of the comments before touched on this one as well in terms of how this one could be unpacked for your particular cohort and the inspectorate group.  I believe this really does give us the most bang for our buck in terms of safety behavioural change and safety culture and safety improvement and impacting the bottom line.  Todd Conklin there, one of the thought leaders in this space, says, “You can blame and accuse, or you can learn and grow but you can’t do both.”  Which one is it going to be?  And certainly, a lot of organisations that you step into, you guys can probably see it, you can probably see that really strong undertone of blame and punishment or that strong culture of learning and accountability. Just to flag, as most of you would know, the Restorative Culture is about learning but also accountability as well. It’s not just a free for all.

What we’re interested in doing at Urban Utilities is creating an environment where the perceived risk of speaking up is so low that people do speak up so we can learn, adapt and then change.  And we know this is working.  We’ve really increased our psychological safety in our company.  Myself and the safety team, we get some pretty interesting stories coming our way of stuff where you think, okay, that really shouldn’t be happening. But unless we know about it, we can’t help tackle that as a business and we can’t lean into some of the conflicts that’s resulting in those kinds of breaches and breaches of compliance.  We’re interested in changing the conditions that could lead to serious injuries.  And the only way we can do that is by setting up that psychological safety really clearly.

For us as a business in rolling out this model of Restorative Culture is really about helping leaders understand their response matters to failure and error. When they respond, when an error occurs, how they respond will determine how things will transpire in the future. And I think it was a couple of years ago, we had a very serious incident on one of our sewerage treatment plants. The inspector who came out, I can’t remember his name, he very much took a learning approach and his approach and his response, which was very good in relation to the serious incident, really helped us as a business make some vast improvements to prevent that incident from ever happening again.  I thought it was just wonderful to see that.

How does this actually look in practice?  What we’ve done for our leaders is we’ve helped them understand that there’s a whole number of cognitive biases out there, hindsight bias, attribution bias, that impact the way in which a leader will respond when an incident occurs.  Understanding that, understanding how important it is to be curious when something goes wrong as opposed to pulling the big stick out.

Second of all, to put it into practice, we’ve helped leaders understand that there is this thing called the blue line and the black line and through their good leadership and questions and curiosity they can go out and they can discover the real story behind work and how work actually happens out in the field at two o’clock in the morning when there’s no one around.  That way, we can start to align that blue line and the black line.

And the last thing that we’ve done there, is we’ve formed this process that we call learning teams around failings and successes as well.  That’s an alternative investigation process to ICAM.  We still have ICAM and TapRoot, we just also have learning teams now.  And the whole purpose of that is to drive organisational learning around systemic conditions that compromise safety.

In summary, as an organisation who is now doing Safety Differently, what we’ve done, we’ve very much tried to take an evidence-based approach to improve operational safety. We’re not interested in surface fixes. We’re not interested in glossy campaigns and the like that make us as leaders sitting in the air-conditioned office feel good.  We’re interested in enhancing operational safety and measuring that.  Second of all, we did that large process of discovery, which we continue to do, spending a lot of time out in the field learning about real work. And then obviously putting out the education and awareness through our safety leadership program was essential.

The three ways in which we’ve put this into practical application is through the Decluttering process, so checking ourselves against safe work and the safety of work, setting up that lead indicator process of Work Insights to discover ‘work as imagined’ versus ‘work as done’, and then that blame and punishment or learn and improve and accountability type approach through Restorative Culture.  That is, it in a nutshell of how we at Urban Utilities have put Safety Differently into practice.

Tomorrow afternoon we’ll have some of our esteemed operational leaders from the company will be on a panel and we’ll be there to answer any questions you have about how this actually lands with our workforce and our executive and our board.

What I’m going to do now is to throw up just a very quick video that summarises our approach.  And while that’s playing, if you could go to the Q&A box, Steve Harvey, one of our safety team members is already on there probably answering some questions already, and Steve and I can answer any questions that you have.  So here we go.

[Video plays]

Kym Bancroft:

Thanks Andrew.

Moderator:

No problem, Kym.  Thank you. And as you can probably see, there’s quite a few questions in there. Are you happy to take some verbal questions there?

Kym Bancroft:

Yeah, sure. Do you want me to work through them, Andrew, or are you happy to read them out?

Moderator:

Yeah, look, I can read them out for you.  Saves you having to scan and scroll quite so much.  Some have been answered pretty comprehensively by Stephen and the team, but some I’ll still reiterate anyway.  One there is around – you mentioned Decluttering quite a bit, and somebody said red tape reduction has gone off the boil a bit lately.  Is that because now it’s generally referred to as Decluttering?

Kym Bancroft:

What was the term?  Red tape?

Moderator:

Red tape reduction.

Kym Bancroft:

Yeah, it could be.  I mean the Decluttering theory by Drew and Dave certainly has taken hold in industry. The term Decluttering is a little bit misleading though because people think it’s about simplifying it and making it shorter or taking information out, which is quite dangerous.  That’s actually not it at all.  It’s all about enhancing operational safety, so yeah, perhaps it certainly is a term that’s being thrown around the industry quite a lot.

Moderator:

Someone’s asked about The CHAT.  It looked like it was an app.  Have you had an app made for you?  And if so, what’s the uptake been like?

Kym Bancroft:

I wish. But our IT will not – it’s not going to happen in a hurry.  We still have a bit of a local government feel over here.  No, that was I think like a little graphic that the guys would have on their phone.  Some of the guys actually still record their pre-task risk assessments.  Some of them were really – they just liked that idea of recording it.  Certainly, for that written component as well, some of them I think record it too.  But no, it wasn’t an app.  That would be wonderful.  And I think there are some on the market that you can purchase.

Moderator:

A personal one for me, I noticed in the video, we’re talking about sort of humanising safety around the values of the organisation.  Has that been an important part?  Maybe this is a good one for the panel tomorrow as well.  But congruence of values, being the organisation is really about providing services for the community, has aligning the values and the humanity of safety been an important part of it?

Kym Bancroft:

That’s such a great question, Andrew.  You’re spot on.  The purpose of Urban Utilities is to enrich quality of life, so everything we’ve done in this approach feeds in beautifully to the overall purpose.  Louise Dudley, our wonderful CEO, none of this would be successful without her.  She very much takes a humanistic approach in everything we do in the business, so this is slotted in really nicely as a much more humanistic and a much more relational approach to safety. Absolutely, yeah.  Also ensuring that we maintain that legislative compliance part, and that’s something that was a little bit of a, perhaps a concern early on.  We worked really closely with Michael Tooma from Clyde & Co just to make sure everything’s paired up with due diligence and everything’s paired up with the legislative rules and regulations that we need to adhere to, so they’re done hand in hand.  It’s never separated out.  That’s an assumption sometimes people make.  I’ll finish talking there.

Moderator:

No problem. You keep going.  Similar question, which again will be one I think for the panel tomorrow as well, which is why Safety Differently works so well at QUU.  Does your industry lend itself to the concepts like Decluttering?

Kym Bancroft:

Why does it work so well at Urban Utilities?  I might actually get Steve to chime in on this one as well.  I think one is because of the appetite from the board and our CEO Louise Dudley and the executives.  Second reason would be, I think that we had overbaked a lot of things, like our safety management system still is really bloated and then what we find is the guys have gone and created their own version of something on their iPad or something like that.  It could be perhaps that, I guess the legacy of where we’ve come from, being five councils merged together.  Perhaps. But I think certainly that’s been a big part of it, is the CEO commitment.  Steve, do you have anything to add to that question?

Stephen Harvey:

Kym, I’ve seen the question come through and I responded around that we have – we do have a supportive board and Louise is obviously really engaged.  And we knew that the business was ready for something different, so I think that’s why it’s been successful.  Everyone’s really embraced it.  I think mostly it’s because the business was ready.

Kym Bancroft:

Yeah, absolutely.  There was a real appetite for it.  Other companies that I’ve heard that are doing this who don’t have the same appetite at the higher level, they tend to ninja it in through their language, which is entirely possible.  Any organisation, I don’t think you need sign off necessarily, it’s almost part of your personal approach.

Moderator:

Somebody here has posted; it sounds like you’re blending safety and behavioural science. Are you incorporating much of the work around behavioural nudges and behavioural economics in the work that you’re doing?

Kym Bancroft:

In my previous life when I worked with the likes of Rio, I used to do a lot of cognitive behavioural safety, so I have taken some of that and blended it in.  That might be what you’re seeing.  I’m not fully across behavioural nudging and behavioural economics but I’ll be sure to Google that afterwards, so not consciously.

Stephen Harvey:

That’s fine. I didn’t answer that question, Kym. I left that one for you.

Moderator:

There’s a question here, and I’m not sure if this is for you or not because I’m not sure what overlap you have with Comcare, but I’ll throw it out there anyway.  Do you see a main difference between the state work health safety regulators jurisdiction and Comcare?  It might have actually been a broader question than for you.

Kym Bancroft:

We can only have one notifiable event to Comcare as opposed to the state jurisdiction. I haven’t seen a large difference, because my exposure to Comcare hasn’t been vast, so no, I can’t really answer that question well.

Moderator:

A question around the challenges encountered with Safety Differently.  What do you think might deter organisations from taking it up?

Kym Bancroft:

I think perhaps if there’s misconceptions about what it means for the organisation, that might deter them.  I did see a company, then went with a great strategy to roll it out and then something happened and then they reverted back to a very average behavioural based safety program.  I was very disappointed for them because they were on such a great track.  I think perhaps it’s that fear of – and perhaps misunderstanding of the theory, are we throwing the baby out with the bath water? Are we ripping all the legislation out? Of course not.  And so I think that’s why it’s important to perhaps understand those objections and those assumptions that people have, and then to obviously make sure it’s all paired together as kind of a full holistic safety approach, as it should be, right.  This is not a silver bullet.  We still have all our other components in place.  Certainly, we’ve also applied this to health and wellbeing as well, so it fits really nicely into the injury management space and humanising that, and also health and wellbeing, we’ve got a whole strategy on the back of that.

Other challenges would be perhaps, what I’m finding is a lot of people reach out and say, “Hey, I like what you’re doing.  Can you share your stuff?”  And I share it, however, it’s not a plug and play type of thing.  A safety professional leader has to go into their company and fully understand the context and do a lot of discovery to then decide what they would declutter and what they would do because it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach in terms of how you operationalise it.  So, The CHAT wouldn’t work for some organisations for different reasons.  I think that would be a challenge.  I think other challenges-----

Stephen Harvey:

I was just going to say, we had that with one of the delivery partners who were really on board with some of the work that we were doing, and they tried to bring in their own version of The CHAT and they just can’t get it over the line, there’s just too many people have differing views on it, which is a real shame because they invested a lot of money and time and amazing research as well.  That’s really unlucky.  We definitely want people to follow what we’re doing though.

Moderator:

There’s a question here about the duration to create and implement the program.  And, Stephen, you’ve already put in a bit of a response there, that it was written three years ago, and The CHAT process took six months of discovery and implementation.  I’m wondering, Kym, are you able to give us any insights about the design – you were using sort of that design language – discovery around the creation of the strategy itself?  Did that take a long time and a lot of getting people on board?

Kym Bancroft:

It's been about three years in the making and we’re well down the road now.  I believe that if you’re going to do some kind of transformation process in relation to anything, including safety, it should be swift. It shouldn’t be five years down the track, we’re still wondering if we’ve succeeded or not because that’s just not going to work.  I think it should be rapid and swift in a way.  We managed to make a pretty big impact on the organisation within about a year.  And a lot of that comes down to just the really great leaders that we have, who will be on the panel tomorrow, who are just early adopters, who often would say things like, “This is just what I’ve been thinking all along.  You’ve just put some language behind it.”

We also have really great HSRs and really great field workers as well who jumped on board to this as well.  I don’t know if that would be the same for all organisations but certainly, I think you’d be looking at anywhere between an 18 month to perhaps three-year process. It all comes down to resources perhaps though because there’s a lot of back-end systems to create in terms of aggregating that lead indicator data and you need to have good systems there. Ours are a little bit archaic, which slowed things up a little bit, but certainly we’re getting there.  We’re just about to enter another three-year strategy cycle, so now it’s really about evolving and maturing all of the systems and processes that were put in place from the tools and methodologies.

Moderator:

And you talked about people sort of getting on board.  Did you specifically target champions to be the leaders, HSRs, or was it really top down driven?

Kym Bancroft:

Yeah, it was a top down and bottom-up approach equally.  However, through the training we did, straight away after day one, you’d get early adopters emerging, just the people coming up to you going, “Love it.  I want to do it in my area.”  And it’s like, oh, I haven’t got the back-end systems quite ready.  But they were the ones who would just come up to us, and we then actually banded them together.  We called them the Vanguard and they would do micro experiments in their part of the business.  And it was just wonderful.  They’d do micro experiments around whether their localised safety initiatives were actually making a difference.  They would go out and trial certain things.  They were just wonderful.  That helped us get a lot of traction and quick wins early on.  But certainly, yeah, we did take that top-down approach though, to answer that question, and then then harnessed that energy of those early adopters.

Moderator:

We’ve got a comment around Restorative Culture in there.  Does that relate to Restorative Justice?  And Stephen’s mentioned going to Sidney Dekker’s Just Culture literature. Is there anything you want to mention?

Kym Bancroft:

Sidney Dekker’s actually got a Just Culture checklist as well, which is very kind of him to put it into a checklist.  But that book, I’d suggest you read it, then read it again and read it again because it really is incredible, especially the way – and the practical examples about how to establish forward looking accountability.  I noticed before there was a question on The CHAT around, well hang on a second, we do issue fines and whatnot, and so on and so forth.  Even working in – you can still marry up a Restorative Culture with a Retributive Culture, so they’re not totally at polar opposites.  But I think again, for this group, that would be definitely a worthwhile book to read just in terms of how forward-looking accountability can be established instead of blame and punishment.

Moderator:

Do you want to make any comments about what challenges you faced with gaining the senior leadership buy-in?  And Stephen’s actually mentioned about new leaders joining who haven’t been on the same journey taking a bit of time to understand the concepts.

Kym Bancroft:

Yeah, Steve, did you want to talk to that one?

Stephen Harvey:

Yeah, I can do.  Safety Differently really is just something that’s not practised that greatly in a lot of organisations.  When we get new leaders coming in, they’re like, “What are you doing?  What are you talking about, getting rid of documentation? What are you talking about?”  Like Decluttering, there’s just that misconception that the more paperwork that you have, the better.  Then really, what we’ve been trying to do with those guys is just really work with them and share literature, share the research, and just really help them understand.  And most importantly, take them to the fields.  That’s where the real benefit of what we’re doing has been felt.  The guys in the field absolutely love what we do.  Basically, we’re empowering them.  I don’t call myself a safety specialist.  I call myself a safety performance person just simply because that’s what our role is, to try and help them get quicker and safer and efficient.

Moderator:

There’s a comment in there from Martin about you guys should be commended for taking a new approach to work safely when everyone else is doing it as it’s always been done.  Your worker engagement seems to be a critical success factor.

Kym Bancroft:

Andrew, I’ll just answer that quick question there.  How do you deal with staff who are not interested in safety, just getting the job done?  Certainly, we come across that occasionally.  I think it’s about bringing everyone on that journey.  And we do see that sometimes, there’s different workarounds and whatnot. What we really have done there is tried to bring the guys in for what we call that learning team approach just to hear their context and their reality.  And oftentimes what we’re finding is some really challenging goal conflicts underpinning that behaviour, which then leads to them looking like they just want to get the job done and driving that sort of thing.  We’ve found that that’s worked really well.  It’s a very time-consuming process to do that right, but certainly worthwhile.  I found it has worked with all of those people, but it’s a journey for them as well.

Stephen Harvey:

The Work Insights process really helps that.  Once people realise, we’re actually there to help them and not to sort of dob them in or get them into trouble, I understand those workarounds.

Kym Bancroft:

Thank you so much, Kym and Stephen as well.  Thanks, Kym for such an interesting and really practically anchored talk, answering so many of those questions.  For the audience out there, don’t worry too much if you’ve got a burning question for Kym that you didn’t ask or didn’t quite have formulated yet enough to put it in writing because we’re really, really fortunate to have Kym back tomorrow afternoon as part of the panel, where you can pose questions to the Urban Utilities operational leaders about how they’ve been operationalising Safety Differently.

Kym Bancroft:

Excellent.  Thanks, Andrew.

Page last reviewed: 16 February 2021
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Date printed 02 Dec 2021

https://www.comcare.gov.au/about/forms-publications/transcriptions/safety-in-practice