In this presentation, Professor Mark Griffin is speaks with Damien Renwick, the General Manager, Sodium Cyanide at CSBP Ltd—a major hazard facility where the manufacturing of this hazardous chemical is present.
Mark talks about four approaches to safety, focussing on high performance work practices. In conversation with Damien, he asks:
- Is a good manager a safe manager?
- Why is a vision important?
- What is the role of trust?
- What is the role of the safety professional?
Who is this presentation for?
This presentation is for business leaders and work health and safety professionals who want to create high performance workplaces.
About the presenter
Mark Griffin is Winthrop Professor of Organisational Psychology and Director of the Centre for Safety at the University of Western Australia. He has extensive academic experience, and recognises the importance and complexity of safety issues, and is dedicated to creating new insights that improve the safety of people and systems in high-risk environments.
Mark speaks to Damien Renwick, the General Manager, Sodium Cyanide at CSBP Ltd—a major hazard facility.
How safety drives innovation and productivity:
The High Performance Work Perspective
Professor Mark Griffin and Mr Damien Renwick
Professor Mark Griffin:
Health and safety, as well as productivity and sustainability, are fundamentally important goals for industries in advanced economies, but how do these two different types of goals relate to each other? Surprisingly, there are many different ways and some are better understood than others.
At the Centre for Safety our research aims to break new ground on ways to synergise these goals and provide valuable information and support to industry, government and other researchers.
We have developed a model that provides insight into four different ways that safety can enhance productivity and innovation.
1. The first approach involves the implementation of business practices that are mutually beneficial for health and safety as well as productivity and sustainability.
2. The second approach, which is probably the most widely understood approach, adopts a cost-benefit perspective in which the benefits of improving safety are weighed against the costs of implementing better safety systems.
3. The third approach involves engineering oriented solutions to major business challenges. This optimal design perspective is particularly appropriate in safety-critical and high reliability industries to produce both safe and efficient outcomes.
4. Finally, the fourth approach, the dynamic capability perspective, highlights the way safety can be a source of productivity in changing environments. This final perspective is the least well-documented and understood but also has the greatest potential to generate new insights into the economic benefits of health and safety.
In high-risk industries such as mining, energy, construction and health, maintaining a safe and healthy work environment is crucial not only for avoiding catastrophic accidents but also for driving business outcomes and productivity. However, managing high-risk activities in complex environments is not straightforward. Increased business competition and unpredictable environmental factors can put significant pressure on top of safety priority.
Someone who knows this issue very well is Damian Renwick, General Manager at CSBP. CSBP is an arm of Wesfarmers Chemicals, Energy and Fertilisers. They are a major manufacturer and supplier of chemicals and fertilisers to mining, industrial and agricultural sectors.
One of the things that I've learnt over time is that they're one and the same - a good safety leader is a good leader and vice versa.
One of the things that I've found is critical to good safety which is also critical for good business performance as a leader is being able to establish that vision for your business, being able to have people buy into that and then carry out what's needed in alignment with that vision.
A vision is important as well as a leader because, particularly from a safety perspective, what it allows people to have is a moral compass. If they're faced with a decision of "Well what's the best way to do this? Page 2 of 3
Is it time?
Is it quality?
Is it cost?
Is it safety?"
They're all right. So how do your people sort of choose between right and right, and that decision can be made - easier to make by having a vision which is almost like your – your guiding compass.
Now one of the things from a safety perspective that is very dangerous is complacency, and having a focus on continuous improvement and innovation, and staying on your toes to make sure that complacency really doesn't get into your operations because as soon as your people start to become complacent, their eyes go off the ball so to speak, and that's where you can have issues.
What we've done is we've had a really strong focus in the business on why we do things, how can we do them better and then putting in place almost like a basic performance loop or continuous improvement loop. So starting from your planning through to executing and doing the task, monitoring and the coaching of what's happening, and then being really quite strong on the after the action, reviewing what's happened and how can we get better. And by doing that, and challenging what we've done, you can always challenge that complacency in terms of what you're actually doing.
In an environment which has a lot of hazards people need to be able to trust that they're coming into an environment that they trust what's happening, they trust what people are doing, they believe in people's capabilities, they believe in the safety systems that are put in place, because if you can't establish that, it's going to be very hard to actually even operate.
Employees need to have trust that if they raise issues that management and others are going to listen to that and address their concerns, and that all leads to building a more effective culture as well, which is critical in a safety context, because what that then allows people to do is have the courage to either take ownership for addressing an issue, they get the courage to stop a job and put their hand up and say, "Look, this is unsafe," and that's really critical. Your employees need to be empowered to do that.
Your employees also need to be empowered to, if they see something that's happening that's not right, walk over there and have a conversation with that person, stop the task and then get a commitment from them to make sure that they do the thing right the next time. So trust is critical in all of that.
Change can be hard, obviously, and it's quite an abstract concept almost. What we really try to focus on is trying to break down what we were trying to change into behaviours so that people could actually latch onto the behaviour. I'll use some examples. We spent a lot of time developing some safety leadership competencies for our front-line managers and supervisors and we were able to break down the competencies into specific behaviours, and then what became key to driving the change was taking those behaviours, training people and educating them on what the behaviours were, going out into the field and then observing, providing feedback and the coaching as well.
We then have developed some systems to measure that performance so that people know what behaviours they need to improve, what competencies they therefore need to improve, and that collectively, has delivered a lot of change, and really it's just gone back to really getting away from a change focus, but just really focusing on "What are the behaviours that we want to see?" because the behaviours that you want to see are what defines your culture, in my mind anyway. It's the things that you see people doing and saying. So, if we can influence that in some way, then we've gone a long way to creating some successful change.
The safety professional can play a role in a business. I think the safety professional is key to helping further develop the skills of all of our people, from a coaching perspective. Also I think it would be incumbent on them to be that conduit to the outside world - what's happening in other industries, what's happening in new technologies and bringing that back to the business and helping the business to improve. So, you know, there is a role to play for the safety professional, but ultimately I think in that Page 3 of 3
world where you're highly mature in a well-developed safety culture, it's more of a continuous improvement focus rather than that hands-on doing the safety.
The realisation that ‘good safety is good business’. An unsafe organisation has down time, it has injuries, it has incidents, equipment damage. These are all very expensive and a safe organisation doesn't have any of those things. A safe organisation is an efficient organisation and that's been one of the things that I've realised through my career.
Being able to execute a task safely involves being able to identify hazards, the work environment, the task involved and how that's executed. By doing that and taking that sort of backward step and that broad scanning of that environment, you can identify not only opportunities to identify hazards and put the controls in, but "How can I do that job better?" So, safety is a source of innovation in that respect.
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