Safety observations and interactions provide an ideal opportunity to have Managers out in the field observing and interacting with their workforce. This achieves a number of positive by-products from visible leadership through to addressing the due diligence requirements.
However, one of the unintended outcomes of this can be that Management personnel may become too focused on achieving the prescribed KPI of the safety observation, and fail to recognise the bigger risk exposures.
We don’t have to look very far back to see examples of where this hyper-focus on ‘hazard hunting’ has resulted in poor safety management outcomes. The 2014 Official investigation into the Deepwater Horizon Incident found that the “organizational culture focused more on personal safety and behavioural observations than on major accident prevention”. The BP executives were on the platform undertaking observations just hours before the beginnings of the incident that resulted in the death of 11 workers, the injury of 17 more, and the worst environmental disaster in the United States, releasing about 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
WHS as a discipline has matured over the last 3 decades such that it has become everyone’s responsibility to consider the safety implications of their daily work. However, the accountability still sits with Management, so it certainly makes more sense that they look at the big-ticket risk exposures and leave some of the lower-hanging hazard hunt inspections to Supervisors, Team Leaders, HSR and workers. Given the array of business and operational risks that must be managed, a proportion of Management ‘safety observation’ time could be profitably redirected to ensuring that the critical control measures for higher-consequence, less-likely risks are effective.
To shift focus, the safety observation checklist should be replaced with a copy of the workplace Risk Register as a means of prompting the review of controls that are in place to prevent or mitigate the impacts of these often overlooked higher-consequence, lower-likelihood risks. This more balanced approach to the safety observations adds to the layers of assurance, provides greater operational benefit, and a more comprehensive view of proceedings for due diligence requirements.
QRMC can assist with Risk Reviews and also with tailoring KPIs to maximise the output potential.
Please contact QRMC for more information.