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Richard Warren

Apr 10, 2019

Traditional Values in Developing a Safety Culture

I was cycling through a wonderful waterfront area in the small New Zealand town of Oamaru the other day with some unexpectedly unallocated time on my hands. I was delighted to stumble across an incredibly well preserved Victorian commercial centre that was if not 'buzzing' then at the very least vibrant. Propping the bike against a thoughtfully designed stand I was able to consider the many providers of unusual merchandise that seems to define this particular area. From a bakery producing what was described as the world's 'best' mince and cheese pie (unfortunately a large recently consumed breakfast at the previous night's lodgings limited me from confirming this claim) through a wide array of SteamPunk 'merch' and an extraordinary number of books sellers, the array of goods on offer suggested that an earlier thought that my free time would drag inexorably might indeed have been incorrect were I to attempt an appropriate sampling of all the available delights.

So what has this to do with the 'Traditions of a Safety Culture'?

Well frankly, not a great deal other than as a reminder that reaching the same outcome can be achieved in a number of different ways and sometimes the old fashioned ways can be the best.

To illustrate my point, I had wandered into 'Slightly Foxed' (www.slightlyfoxed.co.nz), a small slightly dusty second hand book shop that, on entering, was like stepping back in time. The range of titles while not huge covered many of my interests and I was quickly able to spy a book that would be on few reading lists but seemed on the surface, appealing. I can assure the reader of this note that having glanced at a few pages of my newly purchased literary distraction while sitting on a waterfront bench regretting my decision not to have proffered some coin of the realm at the aforementioned bakery, "The Wooden 'O' - Shakespeare's Globe reborn" looks like a fine purchase indeed. Removing the book from its position on a high shelf and making my way to the book seller's perch, the Dickensian effect was even further enhanced. The owner, Kahren Thompson, was appropriately garbed in period costume and could easily have been taken for one Wilkins Micawber. Enthusiasm for his chosen life, fine penmanship and a wonderful attitude to profit made for a thoroughly enjoyable transaction.


The chosen book was perused, the wisdom at this particular this purchase commented on, the details then entered, using a fine fountain pen, long hand in a journal large

and and weighty enough to suggest that this merchant would generally be closer to "happiness" than "misery'. There was no sign of plastic nor any other trendy virtue signalling packaging. The book was simply wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string. All very Mary P, extremely practical and thoroughly efficient sending this shopper on his way feeling thoroughly Victorianised (except for the bike shorts and t shirt constructed from a new space age anti moisture material, probably seaweed tendrils)

Slightly Foxed makes visiting Oamaru extremely worthwhile particularly if you are able to divert toward the nearby bakery (apparently)(and if it is that good, keep it to yourself).


Interestingly, a much larger "Collectibles" establishment around the corner (with a particularly enchanting range of Balinese fabric stamps) also supplied books and was run by a charming man with artistic leanings who was using an Apple 40 inch monitor and matching system to manage his business and provide the mood via, I think we can assume, Apple Music. Not a bad setup and very modern but the mood was broken when his internet call system kicked in and his very attentive grandchildren's voices were bouncing joyously across the objet d'art.

I wonder who had the better return custom?

So, literally doing things the old way provided a wonderful, cost efficient service that made me at least think about the opportunity to inject some traditionalism into how we at Intuto help customers develop a safety culture using our own, admittedly high-tech training platform.

Three things sprang to mind.

1. Keep it real.

Developing a solid safety culture in any organisation needs to be a natural thing. What works for one organisation won't necessarily work for another. Whatever plans you put in place to improve the safety within your organisation, those plans need to meet the spirit of the organisation.

Just like the book seller using the fountain pen and journal. That worked for him as a small operation in exactly the same way it had worked for organisations back when Charles John Dickens was writing. And if recording employee concerns using a quill matches your organisation's ethos then stick with it. If it ain't broke etc.

2. Keep it simple.

There are a multitude of health and safety tools on the market. These range from simple apps through to multi million dollar enterprise solutions. And these different tools exist because someone somewhere had a particular need that wasn't being filled by any other solution. At Intuto, our view is this; Start at the bottom and work up. These days all data is transferable, or at least it should be so, on that basis, start with a solution that suits what you do and how you operate today. If a handwritten journal works for your organisation then all power to you. As you grow or your needs change then you can take the next step and up your level of complexity but only when that makes sense and when it wont distract from your job at hand. I.e. Getting people home safely every day.

3. Keep it consistent

As Napoleon said over and over as he trudged dejectedly home after sampling the delights of a full on Russian winter, "If I hear that overture one more time I'm moving to the South Atlantic". All right, that might be both irrelevant and untrue but the underlying sentiment is accurate if slightly misplaced. The fact is that Napoleon was consistent in his goal of introducing liberal reform to the world and took to the road (with a few thousand men, horses and cannon) to ensure that the world he introduced it to was larger than just la belle France (and broadly overrun by smelly troops with more on their minds than who would play them in the movie) confirmed the generally accepted view that he was a nutter.

But he was consistent. Over and over he convinced the people of France, and more importantly those under his direct command, to listen, follow and if necessary, sacrifice themselves for the good of the Republic.

Now I'm not suggesting that every health and safety manager starts accumulating loyal, if slightly odorous, legions (it was a very hot campaign in that year and the cost of dry cleaning an 18th century infantry uniform...well...), but you should at the very least make sure your plan is solid and that you stick to it with clear ongoing communication. In short, be consistent, embed habits into your safety culture and before you know it, the Iberian peninsula will be yours! Or at least you will have a healthy, safe workplace.

And frankly who needs a whole peninsula?

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