No work = some results, but do you deserve them?

Without effort in the HSEQ space, plenty of workplaces still get finely rewarded for their laziness. It’s fundamental. It’s easier, often faster and you often then make more money etc. etc.

It’s a common thing to see work occurring for an organisation which I know has strict HSEQ requirements of their team members and/or contractors. At a contractual level, the businesses doing things well can often get beaten into submission by the race to the bottom when they get out bid by a competitor who undercuts them – but them makes profit by failing to follow through with any of their HSEQ commitments.

Now I’m not talking about general ones about “duty of care” and “work safely” which can have a wide range of interpretations. I’m talking about ones where the commercial client has made those tendering for the work to state they’ll comply with very specific requirements and provide evidence of this in order to be in the running. That’s not a bad thing and in today’s age of cost effectiveness and efficiency, I’m the first one to agree with reducing wastage and that includes money wasted in the HSEQ space. The issue is when a contractor bids at a price they know they cannot achieve, so does the high risk work at 3-4am in the morning – clearly and knowingly breaching the explicit requirements they said they’d achieve in order to generate a profit margin where before there was none.

The sad thing is that, it’s probable they’ll get away with it most of the time. That’s the nature of risk – you’re basing things off a probability, and it might work out ok. It also might not.

The ISO 31000:2018 definition of risk is “the effect of uncertainty on objectives”, so are you willing to put catastrophic consequence potential into a job just to make a profit? I hear and see (including just today…) this still commonly.

But, I am not here to police people to do the right thing when they’re only going to hurt themselves. If they wish to do dumb stuff, then that’s their call. What I am concerned about is the ubiquitous race to the bottom for price and the impact it has on those doing the right thing to cut corners in order to win work. My morale challenge is knowing despite increasing pressure to demonstrate how they’ll do the right thing, but budgets and market pressure encouraging them to not follow through. It’s perfectly understandable that people give up and leave their relevant industries or just end up cutting corners knowing they’ll likely get more reward for the wrong thing than the right thing……..well that is until someone falls out of their EWP or gets hit by a car that never saw them working there.

My advice is always that the cowboys are getting less and less now given most people don’t do the wrong thing out of clear knowledgeable violation. They generally do it thinking they’re OK. So while organisations are asking for contractors to demonstrate they’re going to be doing the right thing, those who don’t know what the right thing is are going to win less and less work, and get forced into smaller and smaller sections of the market. Once this is occurring, the impact of price becomes less of an issue because then the true positive impact of reliability and good HSEQ outcomes will be far more profitable than risking everything on a small gain.

To summarise, I’ll say to keep on doing the right thing regardless of these cowboys out there. They’ll be winning less work and be having more incidents. When you’re talking about significant falls from heights, or a fire at a fuel station, or a worker or member of the public getting hit by a vehicle in your workplace, it’s not likely to be cheaper than all the profit margins you’d save by cutting a few corners. In fact, for most small to medium sized businesses, it’s unlikely they’ll still be in business afterwards.

And all that will be left are those doing the right thing. Then you’ll be thankful for the outcomes you deserved from your hard work. And the cowboys will be regretting the outcomes they deserved…

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Don’t eliminate your ability to learn before you start

This meme captures the very much the premise of any good incident investigation.

No matter how much one think they’ve got the answer or likely cause of an incident, by going into it in that mindset, they’ve failed before they’ve started.

It is the single most common barrier I see with an organisations own investigations. They may sometimes be in the ballpark, but it’s very rare they’ll be seeing much more than the basics or immediate causes. They’re missing valuable learnings and almost definitely destined to repeat incidents caused by many similar factors if they don’t approach it with an open, yet curious mind.

It’s costly and just bad business to jump to a conclusion too promptly or before gathering the spectrum of data.

So our advice is to make a conscious effort to don’t close your mind with an existing likely cause of an incident investigation. Do the data collection and then rule out what’s not a factor and you’ll often be surprised that there are many more significant factors than one where an individual has screwed up or a single factor has failed. Once you’ve gotten these elements of data together, then put them on a single page and rank them in a hierarchy of most to least significant or systemic. You may actually be surprised that you weren’t as accurate with your initial reasoning as you thought.

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If it hurts, you’re still in the fight

When things go bad, it’s important to understand that’s just a perspective. But perception means you’re still alive and that’s gotta be a good thing right?

So there is no point getting bummed out with how it’s painful or things went wrong when you’ve been handed an opportunity to learn. Even if you feel you were unlucky, understand that nothing fails like success, and you’ve been shown how to do t better next time. You’re going to be able to remember the lesson for longer and be more motivated to maintain the lesson for far longer than those who never learnt it like you did.

Learning opportunities like your failure or issue that’s going on are critical to success. Because you’re now one lesson ahead of everyone else, and we all know that is the difference between being good and being great. It’s those that get up from a defeat just one more time than their competition…..

Good – Jocko podcast link

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“Stupid questions” are a sign of weakness, but not in the way we often think

So, you think you have a good reporting culture & an open consultative workplace.

One test that will clarify this is, is to look at the reaction to the ubiquitous ‘stupid questions’.

If you have a work environment that belittles someone who asks a so called dumb question, or if they are left to bask in the embarrassment alone & unsupported then you probably don’t have a positive culture that is trying to continuously improve.

The team members who ask these questions are often the innovators & will think outside the box. They’re not weak, but actually quite brave. They’ll be the ones most likely to challenge the status quo & speak up when they see the emperor has no new clothes. When we are talking HSEQ, speaking up can be a matter of life or death! It can mean preventing catastrophic harm to the environment or the organisations bottom line. Failing to see these issues coming because of a culture that prevents those who see it from speaking up when others don’t is just plain bad for business.

So I challenge any workplace to be introspective next time someone is brave enough to ask a question. Look inside to see why they could interpret it that way, & nurture those who speak up about those challenging topics. Look for the related weakness of your systems.

Then you’ll be best positioned to prevent a disaster before getting run over by it. Fix the weakness the “stupid question” is highlighting because it’s a free lesson if you chose to use it.

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