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Focus on the journey and the destination takes care of itself

Tuesday, 21 January, 2020 - 10:00
Industry news
National News

Over many years, a debate has gone on about concepts such as ‘Zero Harm’ in health and safety. Although the history and origins of Zero Harm are clearly about generating awareness - whereas a slogan it represents the critically important idea that no amount of harm is acceptable – those who have more literal interpretations don’t like its use in health and safety programs where they see the literality of the term as an unachievable goal and therefore destructive to trust.

There is still in this country no such thing as a ‘zero harm’ or ‘safety differently’ health and safety program, regardless of what they’re called– because these reflect (important) broad-stroke concepts rather than systems, and they’re still quite different from workplace to workplace, so cannot be properly compared and measured.

Aside from the slogans, what are our actual health and safety practices? What are we doing, and how are we measuring it? In all we do, we have inputs, outputs and outcomes. There is much conventional wisdom drawn from a plethora of research into any number of fields of endeavour, that tells us the more sophisticated the system, the more it is focused on inputs rather than outputs and outcomes. We see the emergence of this concept as we seek to move away from measuring LTIFR’s (Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate) to exploring input measures which produce safer organizational culture. In other words, what should we be doing and measuring that can help us change the way we do things around here to make things healthier and safer?

Alistair Schuback is exploring organizational culture issues from a very different input perspective – mindfulness - in a webinar on Wednesday 26 February on building a mindful, high-performance safety culture. Alistair says “Most organisations have a genuine desire not to hurt their people and achieve high-level safety performance, the intent is there but often, the results are mixed and inconsistent. One part they don’t do well is to foster the organizational belief that high-level health and safety is achievable”.  

“If we were climbing a large mountain, we incrementally climb our way up to the top within the constraints of risk, and we eventually get there. It is about developing the process and letting the results take care of themselves,” said Schuback, who added that it is much easier to foster engagement and drive when the mindset is on the journey and not the outcome.

Schuback believes that ‘getting people to have an enabled mindset rather than a restricted mindset is key in generating new thinking on safety problems’.

Another problem Schuback regularly encounters is low levels of trust, particularly between different subsets within a business– this could be shift to shift, management to workforce, division to division. Any high-performing team needs high levels of trust, so Schuback said acknowledging where deficiencies exist and working on addressing these is important.

Schuback also says that strong mental focus and resilience assists workers to execute on the standards asked of them. “There is a pressure that comes with high standards and accountability and many workers may already have ‘too much on their plate’. “I believe that helping people strengthen a mental focus is extremely helpful to their focus and accountability.

Alistair takes a different path to those who want to see health and safety as a core part of general business for all – and prefers organisations to see it as a high-performance pursuit, where the solutions are yet to be found. “We need to start seeing health safety outcomes as high-performance challenges that we will solve but we haven’t figured out the right method or approach to solve them yet,” he said. ‘This is a positive and enabling approach and a lot more palatable for the workforce.”

“Next, at the ground floor level, we need to be incremental, focusing on our practices and behaviours over very short periods rather than in short take an incremental approach. This improves situational awareness, emotional control and fosters belief.”

Schubach says this is part of building “the self-efficacy of your workforce so they have the courage and belief to stick with it when times get hard,”

Above all, Schuback says that the key to high-performance health and safety is to keep the focus simple. 

Alistair looks at all of these things in the context of the mindfulness of the individual - “With the right beliefs and mindset, we give ourselves the best chance to achieve the high-level health and safety result we want.”

Alistair’s Webinar is a step outside the conventional, and those who have their curiosity piqued may want to join him online, to hear his ideas about how mindfulness can contribute to good health and safety: building a mindful, high-performance safety culture is on Wednesday 26 February from 2.30-3.30pm. Registrations will close at 10.30am on Monday 24 February. Registrants should note that the views of webinar presenters are not necessarily those of the Institute.