Three challenges for organisations in improving OHS documentation usability

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Thursday, 17 February, 2022 - 12:30
Industry news
National News

There are three main challenges for organisations when it comes to applying behavioural science and psychology to improve OHS documentation usability, according to a global expert.

These three challenges are lack of internal knowledge and understanding of behavioural science and psychology; lack of budgetary commitment to educate those responsible for management systems; and an appetite to apply the science to management systems.

“Organisations which are successful in applying behavioural science and psychology to improve document usability invest in the people who are responsible for internal management systems,” said Klaus Hofer, CEO of CAT-i and author of chapter 12.3.2 on document usability in the OHS Body of Knowledge.

“They allow them the time to learn about psychology and develop skills in improving document usability.”

Marketing, advertising and social media firms have been quick to apply behavioural science and psychology to their businesses, according to Hofer, who said this is likely because the result can be measured through increased uptake, sales or time spent on a platform.

“It is much harder to measure success in safety as we rely on statistics and probability measurements,” he said.

“A reduction in safety incidents can have many factors, so an organisation that is working to apply behavioural science and psychology may find it difficult to demonstrate a return on investment.”

Hofer also said high-performance organisations understand that people have a big influence over the productivity and success of the organisation, so they put effort into understanding them.

High-performance organisations don’t shy away from applying behavioural science when improving systems, and Hofer says they implement the highest order of risk control, seek the systemic causes of incidents, and take action to eliminate system issues, especially human factors.

“Organisations that aren’t high-performance organisations frequently take the cheapest option when managing risk, blame the person when incidents occur, and fail to take corrective action to prevent further incidents,” he said.

“Human factors are not a focus.”

Historically, management culture was authoritative (do what I say) and Hofer said this has evolved through the years.

“Management had to change to be more accommodating (making people happy), then change further to allow people to contribute intellectually and become part of decision making,” he said.

“Nowadays, people want to feel involved and that they are collaborating with their organisations to achieve the organisation’s objectives.

“Collaboration and consultation are now a key part of any management system, at the centre of this are people.”

The full interview with Hofer will feature in the cover story of the upcoming edition of OHS Professional magazine, which focuses on the OHS Body of Knowledge and OHS management systems. The AIHS is also running a series of WA branch webinar events discussing the OHS Body of Knowledge. For more information visit the AIHS events website.