Looking in the (Cultural) Mirror...

safety culture Dec 22, 2015

Today I attended an international cultural awareness programme at Abbey Communication - the key aim wasn't to specifically raise my awareness about international cultures, indeed we didn't cover much in terms of international cultures, but to allow me to understand my own culture and how that was internalised. This may sound a little odd, but let me explain.

Humans are very poor at determining absolutes, be that temperature, performance, behaviours, or skills or many other metrics - rather we use benchmarks to provide a comparison against. Those benchmarks might be against a set of written or published standards, or against the team performance, or most often, against our own views or biases of what is right or wrong. We judge without realising it. I have previously covered System 1 and System 2 thinking - cultural judgement is part of that System 1 make-up.

So, if we are to undertake a comparison, we must first understand our own culture and biases, something that I doubt many of...

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Big Data - Use as a Predictor? Or Not?

safety safety culture Dec 22, 2015

I love reading articles like this http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/07/opinion/eight-no-nine-problems-with-big-data.html?_r=0 because it both prompts positive thought (how to make it work) and at the same time reinforces the complexity of the environment we live in, especially when it comes to developing leading factors to improve safety and performance.

Most people are aware of the linear view of causality (if this, then that) and in a number of scenarios, it is indeed applicable. However, the majority of incidents and accidents involve humans and as a consequence I believe that this linear view is too simplistic.

My opinion is that it should be considered more like an object that requires a critical mass of contributory factors before the adverse event happens. Unfortunately, we aren't particularly great at spotting where those little bits and pieces are coming from to make up that critical mass. Sure we can spot the big ones, but you can get the same effect if you add lots and lots...

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Violations are common...So don't be surprised when people break rules

"An online survey drawing on 50 key offshore companies saw 34% of respondents saying their company needed to offer additional operational and technical training. Worryingly, 50% found it difficult to say ‘no’ to a client or senior staff demanding actions that might compromise safety. Some 78% of respondents believed that commercial pressures could influence safety." - Original Article referring to OSV and Workboat, 2015,

"78% of the study population [offshore workers] have either reported violating or will have no problem with violation when the time comes. Only 22.5% remain with a reasonable guarantee that they have not or will not bend the rules." - Hudson et al, (1998). Bending the rules: Managing violation in the workplace.

Given the above, it should come as no surprise that people break rules in the workplace. Humans are creative, and in the main, want to get work done as efficiently as possible, which means they sometimes circumvent the safety measures or rules in...

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