Canadian Mining Journal

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BOOK: Safety is more than science

Safe By Accident authors Judy Agnew and Aubrey Daniels argue that the key to improving mining safety lies not just in the latest engineering, physics, or chemistry advancements, but in the science of human behaviour.


Safe By Accident authors Judy Agnew and Aubrey Daniels argue that the key to improving mining safety lies not just in the latest engineering, physics, or chemistry advancements, but in the science of human behaviour.

In their new book, the authors explore widespread practices that waste time, money, and create less safe workplaces – such as incentive programs, safety signage, and punishment. To help companies create a “culture of safety,” Agnew and Daniels offer science-based proven solutions for what to do instead.

Moving beyond finger-pointing, the authors reveal how behavioural science, specifically behaviour analysis, can help organizations eliminate counterproductive practices and foster a company-wide culture of safety – from the boardroom to supervisors to employees on the front lines.

Some of the recommendations in the book include:

Don’t base safety incentives on incident rates: Having zero incidents is the ultimate goal of safety, but this flawed system unintentionally rewards luck. Instead, an incentive system should be based on motivating employees to engage in pinpointed safe behaviours.

Understand the value of near misses: A near miss is a deviation from the prescribed way to produce a product or service in a safe, efficient manner. We must sensitize employees to observe deviations in their own behaviour and that of other employees. Near misses provide valuable information about training, supervision, and teamwork.

• Mistakes should not be punished: Employees often fail to report safety concerns because they fear reprisal. Punishing unsafe behaviour creates a culture of cover-ups where employees play the blame game. 

Understand that checklists are not fool-proof: Checklists can become an important tool for developing sound behaviour and producing long-lasting change, but sometimes people assume the very implementation is all that is required to change behaviour – it will only result in temporary change. Items should be observed apart from the checklist to ensure quality and safety. In addition, modify your checklist by conducting post-mortems on projects and procedures to pinpoint tasks, roles, and responsibilities more specifically than before.

Ditch inspirational safety signage: Without the clutter of signs that have no meaningful information, employees may be less likely to ignore important signage. In order to maximize effectiveness, use only compliance signs that direct specific behaviour (“Hearing protection required in this area”) and informational signs when appropriate and relevant.

The book is available for US$21.95 at www.SafeByAccident.com.


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