Health and safety management systems emerged in the 1990s with WHS / OHS legislation, statutory, advisory and industry standards guiding what should be included.

At that time it was perceived that the best way to meet the legislative and standard requirements was to develop an array of Management System procedures and documents. As one might expect this created rather cumbersome document-heavy management systems that needed to be maintained.

Over the years Management Systems have typically become an amalgamation of legacy systems, with layer upon layer upon layer tacked on, as there was always a temptation to add more processes and layers in the attempt to improve safety and plug perceived holes.

Fast forward to today, and there are a growing number of academic and industry studies proving (perhaps what most of us thought deep down), that these layers of paperwork don’t really add value to the core goal of improving safety … and that some of it has simply become an institutionalised tick’n’flick exercise.

Ironically, it has been shown that the more layers of safety process or ‘safety clutter’ (as it has become known), the less effective the actual operational safety becomes. This experience can be explained by two key factors:

  1. The more things you tell your workers to do the less space (figuratively and cognitively) they have to develop and ‘own’ their own safety; and
  2. The more you tell them what to do the blurrier the lines become between the important stuff and the less important stuff (or in the safety space this could easily be correlated between the higher-risk important stuff and the lower risk stuff). Without the ability to differentiate the really important safety processes, safety processes overall get a bad rap and are de-valued. This decline in attitude toward safety becomes the norm and the tick-n-flick approach applied to everything from daily vehicle pre-use inspections to Confined Space permits.

There is obvious benefit to giving your safety management system a spring clean – decluttering the layers of stuff that have become a tick-n-flick processes that add very little value. And by ‘de-cluttering’ there is a golden opportunity to increase ownership, acceptance of safety responsibilities and foster communication. This is turn promotes compliance and better safety outcomes (as well as productivity).

Please contact QRMC for more information.