More harm than good: How safety practices can sometimes harm people (Part 1)

March 12, 2024



What do you do when someone in your workplace has been bullied, harassed or abused? Is your organisation ready to deal with such issues? Are you prepared to handle such situations?


This is the first of a series of 2 podcasts where Greg Smith, Rob Long and I discuss the psychosocial harm that results from safety practices (for instance investigations, audits, inspections). Sometimes safety practices can do more harm than good when we try to address psychosocial risks in workplaces. This discussion takes a broader view of the psychosocial risks from a legal, organisational and regulatory perspective.


We hope that this discussion will trigger some questions and introspections in you and within your groups.

Further information


More harm than good: How safety practices can sometimes harm people (Part 1)



Greg Smith, Rob Long, Nippin Anand, Nippin


Nippin Anand  00:01

Welcome to another episode of embracing differences with me Nippin Anand, the podcast aimed at understanding and promoting transdisciplinary ways of living and thinking, meaning, assimilating different viewpoints, different subjects, different disciplines, but focused on a very simple question. How do we human beings learn? Unlearn, relearn, and make decisions? And how can we tackle risks in an uncertain world?


Nippin  00:34

Someone in your workplace is bullied, discriminated, or harassed? What do you do? Do you think people in your organisation are prepared to deal with these issues? psychosocial risks, are we doing more harm than good in the name of safety practices, for example, accident investigations, audits, inspections, site visits, assurances, and so on. This is the first of a series of two podcasts when Greg Smith, Rob long, and I discuss the psychosocial harm that results from safety practices. This discussion takes a broader view of the problem from a legal, organisational and regulatory perspective. And I hope that this discussion will trigger some serious questions. And introspections. In you and within your groups. Have a listen. Okay, we are on No, yeah, I wanted


Rob Long  01:36

to talk between the three of us about the idea that the risk and safety world is has moved from not just you know, counting hazards in and trying to correct hazards and controls, that the risk and safety industry has now moved into areas in which it’s not familiar. And by its movement into a range of different eras, it’s more than just doing what it used to do, it’s now actually harming people by the very efforts it’s making. And that, that has to do with movements now into psychosocial risk. It has it has to do with movements into areas in which no one in risk and safety is trained at all. There’s no expertise, there’s no curriculum, there’s no background or experience of where risk and safety is now moving, particularly in things like what we’re calling now psychosocial safety or psychosocial hazards. And I find that no one seems to be talking about it that somehow we can blindly go down this pathway. And not like, you know, if you speak to a doctor or a nurse, they have fundamental mantra in their in their career of do no harm. That’s that’s kind of what the, the what’s called the mantra of the doctor do no harm is that some sort of code. But it strikes me that the risk and safety industry has now moved into areas where despite all its best intentions, it’s actually doing more harm than good. And I think that would be worth talking about.


Nippin  03:32

So I think it’s a good good, good discussion. What do you think, Greg? What’s your view?


Greg Smith  03:42

So, look, it’s an interesting one. From a legal risk management perspective, I was just looking at something. So there’s been a there’s kind of been a progression when I look at it from a West Australian perspective, but there’s been a progression. So we had an inquiry into high suicide rates in the flying flying fly out mining industry back in about 2015. And at that time, the regulator acknowledged that mental health was part of their remit under the health and safety legislation as it was then they just never really acted on it. There had been quite an infamous health and safety prosecution in Victoria arising out of workplace bullying when a young waitress suicided after bullying in the workplace, and that involved a company, company owners and three workers are being prosecuted under health and safety legislation. Then we had the enough is enough report in Western Australia at about the same time. All of the issues were coming out of Canberra with sexual misconduct in that environment. Then we had the respect of Work report put out by the Australian Human Rights Commission, which created different sets of different frameworks again, and then we had pretty quickly, all of the I think it’s all now might all except I think Victoria now have adopted psychosocial regulations. And to me to be fair, they don’t really say anything that you know, there’s just a structural, they don’t say much at all, I think we spoke about this a couple of years ago, I think might be 12 months a bit longer. And nothing in my view has really shifted from that. That position. I think health and safety has been forced down this path. I think there are a lot of people who work in health and safety who are very uncomfortable with this with now finding this on their plate. Because I really, it’s not it’s not really what they trained for, or understand their role to be. And yes, I I think it is problematic. The main the main problematic thing I am seeing at the moment is that the whole tick and flick mentality that I think is problematic and safety for physical risk is now being applied in the area of psychosocial risk. And, and regulators. Organisations are grappling with the relationship with regulators in terms of what do I disclose what don’t I disclose? It because there’s no mechanic, the legislation doesn’t create any kind of mechanic, or middle ground or process whereby you can make sort of have anonymous reports, if you like and have a bit of flexibility in the way that they’re approached it, it all seems to fall into the same bucket. And I think people are trying, and there’s lots of new buzzwords around yourself, I get them wrong. Don’t hold it against me. But you know, when they talk about trauma informed and victim centric type approaches, I think a lot of people are using that language, and they’re trying to find ways to do this properly. But I think I just think it’s a real struggle at the moment. Because we don’t have, as you point out, Robert, I think health and safety as he does, it’s never had as part of its curriculum, not it’s not part of its ethos, and everyone’s kind of playing catch up. And we’re seeing lots of third party commercial products being dropped into this, this space very quickly. Yes, I think it’s problematic.


Rob Long  08:13

Well, and I’ve seen no change at all in the curriculum, in, in, in safety, over the last 10 years, there’s been no change. And so it’s a bit like, it’s a bit like, Well, I’m not sure it could even catch up, to be honest. But even even things like trauma, you know, I, I was writing to someone today, about the way Risk and Safety approaches a typical incident investigation. And I said to this person, you know, you’ve been asked by your CEO, to go to this accident, and interview people. And I would argue that you’re interviewing people who are in trauma, or who are distressed, or who are who are in a process of grieving or grief, in some form of loss. And I said to this person, have you any training at all in grief and loss counselling? And they said to me, what do you mean? And I said, I said to them, I would not, for one second, go into a situation where a person was distressed or in trauma, without very, very significant education and learning I’ve had in pastoral care. I wouldn’t even entertain the probability, let alone walk into someone who was traumatised and ask them what happened in an accident. As if they just witnessed someone had their leg chopped off or whatever it is, doesn’t matter. But risk is a big risk and you’re asked to go into that city. Your relation? And my argument would be if you do and you accept that you actually do more damage and more harm than good. I


Greg Smith  10:10

think the regulator finds itself in a similar position, Rob, I’m not sure how much Absolutely. Of that sort of pastoral care the regulator brings to the conversation either. But again, but again, that’s all I think. So I think we’ve had a similar problem that’s existed for a long time in the human resources industry as well. Yes, sir. When people come to make complaint about bullying or harassment or misconduct, the organisation seen, but most organisations seem equally ill equipped to deal with those conversations as well. And, you know, the when we did the, when the inquiry into the suicide rates in FIFO, work was done. One of the important reports in that was a lifeline report, in my view, and that lifeline report actually identified that one of the significant contributors to mental health concerns in the mining industry was the way that health and safety was managed in that industry. Yes, so I think, I think we’ve known for a long time. And I don’t think I don’t think anybody either in the industry or out of it, really, who thinks about it for very long, he’s particularly surprised that we’re not well equipped to manage this stuff. And I just think, I think the regulator’s really have gotten it wrong in the legal framework that we’ve got to this end. And part of the problem with the legal framework. It made me you might say, Yeah, WHS has got these regulations. But we now have the Australian Human Rights Commission with new proactive powers to investigate. So almost a quasi WorkSafe in that area. So we’ve got two of those. We’ve got the Fair Work Commission with its anti bullying and now anti sexual harassment jurisdictions. We’ve still got the police sitting out there with their criminal inquiry jurisdictions. So we’ve got multiple overlapping, legal process is all loosely scattered around this thing, we now sort of talk about a psycho social risk, which I think creates additional problems as well. She’s got this multiplicity of approaches and regulators all dealing with fundamentally with the same issue, I think, yes. Like the whole workers comp scheme. On top of that, Robin, you’d be aware in an Australian context how harmful the workers compensation process can actually be to people? Yes.


Rob Long  12:59

Yes. And, and insurance companies. And then you end up with a whole hierarchy of who has the greatest power in the moment for the client. And what’s in the best interests of the clients with competing forces. So people under worker safety act, people under the humans, right, people under human rights, people under six Discrimination Act. And so, you know, you throw one more mix in, but the person who’s coming into that mix, has no training, no expertise and no experience in what they’re doing, at least in some of these other areas, you might think that, at least you would think a case manager for an insurance company, or you think a case manager in some other area might have some expertise in, you know, the fundamentals of psychology. But in the risk and safety industry, it’s never shown an interest in any of that. And it still does. So what So what can it do? It jumps in now boots first. And I think it actually hurts people. It contributes to further damaging of the client of the either the victim or the person who is being engaged as a witness, or someone who’s been affected by an event.


Nippin  14:31

By I just wanted to jump in here and say something, I’m just listening to two of you. Yeah, I think I feel such a disconnect between what you’re discussing, or what’s happening in my world. The maritime world, for example, is that we haven’t, we haven’t progressed to the topic of safety, beyond physical safety for a very, very long time. And we struggle with the idea. So what we And up is in a very interesting situation we have the privatisation of regulation. All the regulation is privatised. So we don’t have we have flag states. So flags of convenience where you can, you can flag your ship and escape all the liabilities, tax liabilities and so on. And then you have classification societies that privatise regulation and see regulation as a mechanism to to enhance or increase their revenues. And so, there is over regulation in many ways, and all and then you have the assurances that are run by oil majors and so on. And so, invariably, you end up in a space where you have massive, massive amount of assurances, inspections, investigations and so on. And because of the nature of the industry, we have temporary labour most of it throughout. So you end up in a very interesting situation where every thing that is, that is reported as unsafe, whether it’s a condition or an actor or behaviour, is actually becomes the, it’s actually traumatising people, it’s actually making them distressed and and traumatised, and so on. So I just find the conversation that you’re doing is one step ahead. It’s we have a much bigger problem in the maritime world that investigations and audits, we’ve had so many suicides, actually, we have so many people jumping overboard, because they just couldn’t take the bullying from the company to say, We don’t want any more nonconformances we don’t want any more problems during audits and inspections, and people are being bullied on ships. And we have a very, very, very, very interesting situation in this in this world.


Rob Long  16:55

Well, I don’t know a single auditor or an engineer anywhere in the world who has any qualifications in pastoral care.


Nippin  17:06

Yeah, so if you look at what’s happening today, and I wrote down a few points, we have suicides, we have people losing jobs. So the moment you and this is something maybe it’s not, it’s not so. So such a pronounced problem in Australia, I believe, because of the strong labour regimes. But we have a problem that every time you have a nonconformity, or you have a defect, or you have an issue during an inspection or an audit, people losing their jobs because of that, you’re not allowed back in the company, if you didn’t perform well, during safety inspection. It’s a very recognisable problem in this industry. So it creates all sorts of problems. And back to the topic of I think we are actually doing more harm than any good in this industry, at least in the name of safety practices.


Greg Smith  17:59

Again, you and I would equate that very much. And that’s quite consistent with what I think the lifeline report talked about when it talked about mental stress in the mining industry. And it was the the rigid application of rules to people. I don’t I agree with your actual point. I think the the employment laws that protect people’s positions in Australia probably do kick in to an extent. But I think it’s true that one of the areas where employers will get support from an employment tribunal is a safety breach. So if workers are involved in safety breaches, that’s a valid reason for termination. And it’s often upheld by the Commission’s and indeed, part of the problem with the current. And we haven’t, the legislation doesn’t address this, but the historical formulation of the reasonably practicable test talks about implementation and enforcement of process. And enforcement of process is often evidenced by here’s the disciplinary action we take, here’s the people we’ve terminated. And that’s, that’s actually beneficial for an employer who, who’s been prosecuted for a workplace accident, sometimes as a defence sometimes, but very often has mitigation to say, we take this seriously, this is what we do. So in some ways, it’s kind of inherent in judicial systems to be one of wanting to be able to demonstrate some of those behaviours. And so that’s that there’s a trade off. There’s a trade off in there. There is a and even even in Australia, we talked about there’s a recognised position Isn’t that there’s in the the Australian position as it currently stands based on recent decision is that sort of grief and trauma caused by an unfair termination is not compensable. There’s, there’s always there’s trade offs in all of this stuff. The workers compensation system in Australia has an expression, an express exclusion, for compensation for mental health concerns based on reasonable management action. So there’s lots of trade offs here trying to walk some kind of middle ground around the management of psychosocial harm on the one hand, and the freedom of organisations to run the business on the other. None of it seemed very nice or neat seeing.


Rob Long  21:02

Greg, I don’t know if you’ve read the book recently published by Rosa Carrillo has she she interviewed, I don’t know, I think she interviewed 40 or 50, workers safety people, and basically asked them about their, their own psychosocial space with regard to the industry. And she uncovered a great deal of dissatisfaction and alienation, of quite a number of risk and safety, people saying they really didn’t want to go on anymore in the industry. They feel alienated by the industry, they’d lost meaning and purpose in what they were doing. And I mean, I think it’s very significant research, because it shows me that there that all of the things that are developing in the risk and safety industry towards a crescendo. So for example, we continue to poorly educate risk and safety people, we throw them in this deep end in this psychosocial stuff, all for which they have no expertise. And, and, you know, we’ve got the regulator, again, with no expertise in what they’re doing either. And I think it will eventually reach ahead, I don’t know what will happen. But roses work demonstrates clearly that it’s it’s not going away, it’s actually amplifying, it’s actually getting worse, it’s not getting better. Either, they will not be able to keep risk and safety people, they won’t be able to recruit them. Or if they do, they’ll fall away quickly. Or there’ll be some sort of re correction, where risk and safety people step out and say, we can’t do any of this. You need to subcontract it you need to buy in a psychologist or buy in an expert to deal with psychosocial hazards or harm or whatever. They’re calling it to an Organisational Psychologist. But we can’t do it.


Greg Smith  23:07

I don’t, I don’t disagree. But then there’s different entirely unaddressed level, in that most businesses in Australia don’t have any health and safety people. You don’t right, even even larger businesses that employ you know, a couple of 100 People often won’t have a dedicated, yeah,


Rob Long  23:28

that’s kind of, I think, for an organisation with over over a certain 100 people or something they have to have that kind of would often get the HR person to do a four day safety course. And then there’s


Greg Smith  23:41

health and safety representatives there. John, their job is really quite a bureaucratic, it’s in and it gets abused, but it’s in the legislation. Their job is really just to their jobs to represent the worker, your job steward. They’re not if they don’t have expertise. They’re not expected to in some organisations, interestingly, public sector more than others, they do get abused because they in the sense that they end up being quasi health and safety people.


Nippin  24:13

But yeah, just listening to the two of you have a question, actually. So what you’re saying is that an organisation lacks the competence to recognise this problem. Is that what you’re saying?


Greg Smith  24:25

The Health. I’m not sure that I think the problems a bit different in Australia, because we have specific regulations. And we have specific codes of practice. So that in that sense, the regulator has kind of define the problem. I’m not saying that’s good or bad and it’s got its problems and for some organisations that might be helpful. But having recognised having Niners problem has been recognised as a problem. Having the regulator set out what they mean when they talk about psychosocial risk and the sorts of things you have to look for. It’s one thing to have that explained to you, it’s another thing entirely to then go out and engage with the organisation to come up with some sort of meaningful solution. And we’ve seen, you know, over the last 30, odd years, we’ve seen the different variations and the problems that create. So we, we come up with this idea of management conversations for safety. And we send out people who have no idea how to have a proper conversation, and don’t know anything about safety. That creates a whole lot of problems. So what we’re, so then to simply say, here’s a code of practice on psychosocial risk, and here’s your regulations. Now, you who might have been a former crane driver, who went and educated themselves through a search for because they didn’t want to be a crane driver forever and ended up as a safety advisor, now suddenly finds themselves as the custodian of these regulations and codes, yes. And then they’re no better equipped than anybody else to actually go in. And it’s not very careful here. I’m not being critical of most health and safety, people who are very uncomfortable having to take this on. But G as a matter of regulation, Robert came on very quickly in Australia. Ridiculous. And with nothing to support it. Yes. In my view,


Rob Long  26:42

No, there’s nothing to support, there’s still nothing to support it. What What concerns me is that is that there’s all this obligation, there’s all this pressure, and yet no level of competence to respond to it properly. You know, I, I have a very significant background in things like pastoral care, psychology, organisational psychology, etc. And I look at most stuff being thrown out, and I would baulk at it, I would be very reticent. I mean, let alone you know, like, I’ve spent quite a few years of my life working with people in crisis, you know, coming into a family home or coming into a situation where people are in enormous distress and trauma, through witnessing or participating in a very uncomfortable event, not even in resulting in death, but incredibly difficult situations. And even then, I feel uncomfortable, and reticent about applying my skills and knowledge to that event, then I step back and look at safety, people who have absolutely no experience or knowledge in that. And yet they’re asked to go in. And this is where they cause damage. They, they, they actually shouldn’t, they should they should say, I’m not capable of this, I’m not trained in this. I’ve no expertise in this, you should either purchase or contract out to a a provider and step away from it. You know, what me is? Definitely there’s


Greg Smith  28:33

there’s another complexity on that as well and that most people in health, again, not not being critical of them. But most organisations and people in the health who do work in health and safety, apart from some areas. They’re not even informed purchases of psycho psychosocial health support. So you know, that they wouldn’t know if they’re getting somebody good to help them. Yes, yes. They don’t even have that I like like my wife, Vanessa. She’s used to be a nurse. And whenever we’re dealing with any medical issues across the family, she’s a very sophisticated customer of health service that she knows her way around the health system. She knows what’s going on in a way that I have no idea of, and I think we have, we have that problem in the health and safety in the this psychosocial space. I have one or two people that I trust, not that I trust them to be the people to go into the organisation and fix the problem, but I trust them. Who has informed consumers of this type of service to they’re going on a dancer about what they think people need? Because I can’t give that information. Now I can. I can tell you what you need to demonstrate structurally from a legal risk. different perspective, that’s a very different conversation from actually addressing the problem. Well,


Rob Long  30:06

and there’s also a problem of size, I find the very large organisations that engage in employee assistance programme. They often do engage highly competent organisations with registered psychologists and registered counsellors. And even to be a registered counsellor you, you really need to do some fairly sophisticated training. But you know, if you were in all worse, or Kohl’s or BHP Billiton or any of these large organisations, you know, they already have purchased those services, I offer them for free, but their organisation with 20 30,000 or 100,000 employees, you know, and they’ve engaged and they, they pay a considerable amount of money for that. But if you’re an organisation with 100 to 200 people, and you actually don’t even have a Risk and Safety Advisor, you know, and yet, all of a sudden, you find yourself in a sexual harassment case, or you find yourself in a bullying situation, or you find yourself in, you know, some some kind of inequity where a safety person has insisted on shutting down the job or something like that, you know, you can end up in very, very messy damaging situations where more harm is


Nippin  31:27

created than good. It was Rob, coming back to what you always say, I think, perhaps there is something here about the collective belief of an industry that does not even realise that this is an issue. No, I think


Rob Long  31:46

I believe something to be talked about the Dunning Kruger effect, don’t they? Yeah. Maybe


Nippin  31:51

just talk about that. You know, I think we are looking at risk and safety as a department or in a very selective group of people. But I think they operate within an ecosystem, right? So how do you convince somebody that it is a problem when they don’t see it as a problem? We I mean, that’s, that’s something to talk about, I think.


Rob Long  32:15

And, well, I worry about the risk and safety industry that cultivates a strange culture that the moment you become a safety officer, you know, everything, it seems, it seems like, we cultivate, like these people, to a position of arrogance, even think they’re kind of quasi lawyers and this kind of stuff. Even I’ve met people who are regulators, you know, they work for WorkCover WorkSafe. And they’re extraordinarily arrogant about what they think they know about the regulation, but they have no qualifications in law. You know, one of the first things I do is if if I have a doubt at all, Nippin First of all, you have to know you have a doubt. And if I have a doubt, I ring Greg or I email Greg, and I start with I’m not a lawyer. I don’t understand I don’t work in courts. I don’t understand the court. Can you please give me some advice as a trusted colleague and friend, but the trouble is in the worker safety. industry, I think they don’t even have the competence to do that. I think I think they’re there. They think once they’ve got this safety degree or the safety diploma, there’s this kind of bluff, I’d call a bluff, that somehow that I have this diploma, a CEO comes to me and says, Well, you’re the safety person. What’s your understanding of this? Then they got down like they a strap with they know about the worker safety act? Am I right, Greg?


Greg Smith  33:55

I think like all things, Rob, there’s greater or lesser degrees. And I think most employers, unfortunately Put, put your health and safety people in that position. Yes. CEO comes to me as a health and safety person and says, What do I need to know? And if you say, Well, I don’t know, either. So there’s there’s a struggling head as well, I think. Yes, there is. It is.


Nippin  34:27

To Sorry. Yeah. I wanted to ask this question to you actually. Yeah, please go on, I think. Yeah.


Greg Smith  34:34

Now ask the question. Sorry.


Nippin  34:36

Yeah. So my question to you was that as you go from one organisation to another and engage with people at the leadership level, do you do you see that they have an understanding of psychosocial risks? Do you see that they have they how do they understand this whole issue?


Greg Smith  34:57

No, I don’t think I don’t think they have an unknown. Albeit Look, I don’t think I have a good understanding of it as a technical issue. I know it’s now a structural issue that has to be addressed. But in terms of how do I how to have a psychologically safe conversation, you know, the sort of thing that Rob was talking about before? Again, I think we’re starting to see more of a come into the legal profession, but it certainly wasn’t anything I was ever training. Early on, you just you take witness statements, and it’s not your job, your job is not to be there, or that which we’re trying to get better at that. So I think the Hilton people who work in health and safety are not the only people struggling with what this means I think there’s a very limited subset of people, then the language is getting more and more confusing out there for people. Yes. And to get earlier point Nippin. I think one of the things that is problematic in all of these is that it’s dominated by process. So if you think about human resources, because I think that’s where most people have historically thought about what we now talk about a psychosocial risk residing in human resources. If I come and talk to you, if I’ve got a concern, I come talk to you and I have a conversation about a concern I’ve got in the workplace. We can have those discussions, and we can have all of these concerns, until I turn it into a complaint. And once it’s a complaint, it’s in the grievance procedure. And once it’s in the grievance procedure, there’s going to be a winner, and there’s gonna be a loser. And all considerations for personal well being is this is my experience of it historically, it’s kind of out the window, we have to go through the process. Part of the problem of bringing this overtly into the Work Health and Safety is any, any, any company, anybody who raises an issue about a psychosocial risk, triggers the process. Because now it’s come to me to WHS issue, I have to respond. So it becomes process. And once once we take away that space for discussion, and restorative justice, and the ability to mediate between parties and to resolve disputes, that’s when I think is more likely to occur than not. And that’s, I think, where we find ourselves, there will always be a winner and a loser. Yes, once this comes up, and you can understand it, so somebody, somebody, even if somebody witnesses, something that they think is bullying or harassment, they don’t have any context. And they raise that as a concern, it triggers a process so and then then you’ve got two people, potentially, who are now straightaway, very defensive, because they’ve been accused of something. And a third person who may have genuinely raised a concern who’s probably going to be subjected to some sort of stress in the workplace because they’ve raised a concern. And, you know, and you can’t, you can’t have this anonymous system. But you’re investigating me, this has got serious consequences for me, I natural justice says, I get to know who’s made this complaint.


Rob Long  38:50

You then call the union?


Greg Smith  38:54

Or your lawyer or whoever? Yeah, that’s right.


Rob Long  38:56

You call a fourth party? Yep. So now you’ve got four. Yep. None of none of whom have expertise in pastoral care.


Greg Smith  39:08

No, and then WorkSafe might come in because they’ve got to do an investigation. Human Rights Commission might come in exercising their positive duty. It’s, um, I, you know, I get it. I I kind of understand how we’ve gotten here. We had so much publicity about inappropriate sexual misconduct in Parliament, online sites, and it won’t be limited to those two industries. All right. So we know there’s a broader problem out there. And particularly in the case of mining, I think there’s a generally held public perception through the reports that one of the biggest problems here was that the mining companies had too much discretion in the way that they dealt with these things. Like it’s working under the rug and they could pay Some money and I’d shuffle people around. So instead of saying, Well, is there a middle ground that might help us manage this better? We’ve gone too far the other way. And said, No, if these complaints come up, you have no discretion, you have to investigate them like a work health and safety matter. And that’s, I think, going to push some of this reporting further down. Rather than bring it out in you know, we’re not to pinch your language, or we’re not going to surface any of the issues here.


Rob Long  40:33

No, we weren’t. I actually think the opposite happens.


Greg Smith  40:36

I think so. Yeah.


Nippin  40:39

I think so. Great. I think, shall we summarise this discussion? Issue? 40 minutes? And what?


Rob Long  40:47

What did you hear Nippin. Because I don’t know what happens in the UK, because Greg and I are talking about Australia, but I kind of, I kind of stepped back. Now I just said it’s just incredibly, it’s worse than it was, then if they did nothing about it, I think I would have left it up to HR and these other organisations, I wouldn’t have got safety involved in that at all. Safety could just keep to on cars, keep to, you know, policing, the regulation and physical hazards and just keep out of this entirely. I think they would have been better off with that. But now they’ve been drawn into it. I just think it’s just made it worse. But


Nippin  41:26

Rob, I think even when it was in the hands of HR, presumably, people with HR qualifications, I didn’t see any difference in the way they would handle psychosocial risks as a great safety department worry, but now you’ve got to. Yeah, yeah, no, no, I appreciate that. But I think the problem still remains the same. Or one of the things I mean, I keep coming back to the same thing that I think that broader realisation that what we are doing in the name of safety is actually harming people is not there yet. We don’t see it as a problem. I think a lot of organisations don’t see it as a problem. I’ll give you a couple of examples. One is when Scott Eno was being the captain of the Costa Concordia, he was he was called for an interview after spending all night doing the rescue operation. Yeah, it was called to the court in the morning for investigation and given 15 minutes to take a shower. And to paracetamol is when he complained of headache. That is the nature of the problem. We don’t see it as a problem at all. We don’t see that the the that this person could have been traumatised as a result of what he has been through, that realisation does not exist. And I think until we get that realisation, right, it’s very, very difficult to do anything in this space, let alone any any standards or or checklists.


Rob Long  43:01

There’s no There’s no investigations procedure on the market in risk and safety that acknowledges that position.


Nippin  43:10

And the second


Rob Long  43:12

most popular product is called Eye cam. And nipping in the eye cam teaches everybody. You just go into the investigation as an objective observer. You collect your evidence you prepare report. Yeah, that’s what they propose.


Nippin  43:32

Yes, I mean, I was just building on that. The the captain Francisco scatter, cathinones case and an even if you take it to an average operation at sea, whereby an auditor goes on board a ship and I always used to do that whenever I would go to the ship, I would check the hospital records. And I would find instances where lots of people are consuming a lot of paracetamol, a lot of paracetamol. So for example, you’ll see the medical records and you see heaps and heaps of paracetamol being being consumed. But even there, nobody asked the question, why are people doing that? That realisation does not exist, the only thing you would say is you should control the supply of paracetamol. Nobody dares ask the question, what is it that is triggering this consumption? So I think that that realisation does not exist, that people can be stressed as a result of what they’re going through in their work and their lives. As a result of the investigations audits that we are doing. A lot of it is about very control oriented and controlling things that we can conveniently measure. I think that is a an psychosocial risk is something you need a lot of expertise to be able to understand it. I don’t think it’s just risk and safety. I’ve seen very intelligent people working in education sector at very, very, very senior roles. Don’t have any Understanding of psychosocial risks, they just cannot realise it, they can’t see it.


Greg Smith  45:06

But your point is, I think the capacity to an A probably can be balanced. But I think the capacity to genuinely care for people, even the sorts of circumstances where a problem has arisen is, in my experience typically overwritten by the requirement to comply with deadlines and processes. So a complaint being made, corporate procedure says there’s a process, I’ve got X number of days to report it, I’ve got X number of days for workers compensation claim to go in. There’s all these mechanics that sit around the outside of people. And they’ve got to be complied with. And if I start to say, Well, you’ve had an upsetting experience, so I’m going to delay the process to give you a chance to recover. That’s not to get my process completed. That’s right. And then, if I’m doing that, for everybody, all of a sudden, I’ve lost control, and I can no longer manage this thing I have to manage. And this is the problem with people have to manage this stuff, the most compassionate person in the world is going to end up inadvertently creating stress for people simply because of the constraints that we put them under to try and deliver against all of these sorts of things. Except


Rob Long  46:36

it’s funny, Greg, in other professions, caring professions, because I don’t think safety is a caring profession, in, in the clergy, where I’ve worked, and social work, where I’ve worked, and community services and Youth Services where I’ve worked, there is no limit on the time, they are all trained for as long as this takes. And so if I came into a situation, where a 16 year old has suicided, and I’ve walked into a family with three other children, and Mum and Dad, and they don’t know what to do, because their son jumped in front of a train, as a trained professional, I am there for as long as this takes. And I don’t mean days. I mean, this process could take weeks and weeks. And then this is the pressure on a social worker, they then have to produce a report, but when it is due, according to them, and most people don’t understand this study in the caring professions, counselling, psychology, social work, youth work, community work, the clergy. That’s how they work. But they do not work on deadlines. Yeah. But if your health and


Greg Smith  47:58

safety investigator under the legislation, you’ve got two years to get into prosecution. Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. You’ve got these are the constraints we’ve got.


Rob Long  48:07

So we’ve got a crack at cross purposes. The care for the client, and then a regulation which says, well, that’s secondary to a desired outcome, which is producer report. And that’s


Greg Smith  48:22

what I was trying to get at before I think, once once you once you chip any of these concerns into a process, yes, the process takes over, when we’re no longer concerned with the individuals.


Nippin  48:37

Yes. And that’s that’s fascinating proposes I


Rob Long  48:40

was mentioned, it’s the opposite. Yeah, it doesn’t work that way.


Nippin  48:46

And that makes a lot of sense. Because you know, rob you and I often talk about this thing, organisations in abuse, the metaphor of processes, systems, and so on. So some things which cannot be procedure alized do not exist. You can you can, you can go and traumatise a person, but that does not matter, because that does not count it in the processes and systems and how they are measured. The success of the processes and systems and measured through different kinds of goals and compassion and empathy and having a good conversation and building relationship does not really fall into that space. Although if you start from there, it’s a lot more more fruitful and efficient, but it does not. It does not really live within the remit of the organisation.


Rob Long  49:31

Well, and Nippin If I was in an organisation, and I went to the CEO, and I said to him, in my professional opinion, it is it is unreasonable and unprofessional to pursue this until this person is ready. What would the CEO do to me?


Greg Smith  49:51

I think, particularly my experience in fatality events, there’s a willingness to give people some time just before we talk to them. And what we’re seeing what we asked, what we’re seeing more and more is people are producing stress related medical reports. So you actually got several matters where you just you never end up talking to people that you ordinarily would know not to. Yeah, that the regulator’s still exercises their powers to talk to people as much as they can.


Rob Long  50:22

But if there’s if a doctor issues a an order, based upon a psychiatric assessment that this person cannot be contacted, then you can’t touch them.


Greg Smith  50:35

Yet, yeah, it’s problematic. problematic, and I think, but to your point before Nippin, when you’re talking about empathy and compassion, I what what we’re just seeing now I think, we’re we’re trying to solve this decision not solve, don’t solve this problem, we’re trying to tackle this problem of psychosocial risk is probably just a macro expression of what we often see, if I come back to management conversations, you can go on into a good management conversation with empathy and compassion data, or you can have a mechanistic one because you’ve got to have a conversation that probably does more harm than good. Yeah, absolutely. This is kind of a macro expression of a problem that we’ve always done it that


Nippin  51:25

way. This is a very important point, because somebody said to me a few months ago from one shipping company that, you know, we have such pressure. And sometimes we have no choice, but we have to make people redundant, we have to make hundreds of people redundant, within within an hour, we have to make those brutal decisions. And my answer to that was yes, you can make people redundant within an hour, where there is a ways of doing it. You can do it in a very human way. Or you could do it in a very, very inhuman when makes a difference. It makes a huge difference. Yeah, I think that is Rob, we often talk about is this the first response that matters, you know, how, what is your disposition? What is your what is your red herring? Yeah,


Rob Long  52:10

you’re either disposed towards the person or you disposed towards the organisation, or disposed towards the regulation, or you’re somewhere in between? Yeah.


Nippin  52:24

Great. Shall we summarise it then, and that’s it’s almost an hour, it’s


Rob Long  52:32

probably a good time to finish. So


Nippin  52:34

I’ll just stop this. Greg has anything you wanted to add before I go. Okay. If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, many more podcasts are available on our website. novellus dot solutions forward stroke knowledge space. The podcast embracing differences is available on Spotify, pod bean, Apple podcasts and anchor. You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel, Team developers. That way. Every time we publish a new podcast, you will get to know you want to find out more about our work, visit us at novellus.solutions, or simply write to us at support@novellus.solutions. Thank you for wanting to learn more than you knew yesterday. And until we meet again. Goodbye and have fun