This is an edited recording of a case study (by Malcolm Tullett of Risk and Safety Plus and Ellis Pratt of Cherryleaf) presented at the London Atlassian User Group meeting in April 2011. In this case study, we show how Cherryleaf created a system in Confluence software that dramatically reduced the time needed by Risk and Safety Plus to create risk reports.
By guest blogger Malcolm Tullett
Health and safety is built around good practice. There are systems for getting things done and processes for carrying out the tasks required to make the organisation successful. The problems occur when the paperwork outweighs the operator’s willingness to read and digest it!
Standard practice in most organisations is that every time something new occurs policies must be developed and manuals need to be written in order to drive the process.
The senior management team have access to this weight of knowledge, but the front end workers either don’t want to (and don’t) read all that information or they’re forced to read it and don’t fully understand it. Worse still, they do their job in spite of, rather than because of, the bureaucracy that sits above them.
So the issue is how do you get people to do things right without expecting them to read manuals (which they probably won’t – and won’t remember) and still create a safe working environment? A folder of information may exist, but it doesn’t really help the operatives to know the specific gravity or flammability level of any substance they have to handle.
Rewriting the legislation as a ‘policy’ is unnecessary – regulations are about systems, not strategies.
First a strategy needs to be developed to form the base from which the systems and processes will be developed.
Then a system needs to be created and not by finding one that exists elsewhere and copying it. If you want a system to work you need to look at the current practices within the organisation in relation to specific regulations and identifying whether they are already compliant, need a bit of tweaking to meet the regulations or need to start from scratch.
For example: those people who handle hazardous substances need to know how to handle them safely and the consequences of not doing so. A card with the substance instructions for use is enough. It may be a list or a flow chart and may have specific warnings e.g. flammable, carcinogenic, irritant, but first and foremost should be simple, straightforward and practical.
Operatives don’t need the strategic documents, a simple basic process with critical information is all that is needed at the operational level.
The system should accommodate how your organisation operates – not be ‘one-size-fits-all’. Every process needs examination and existing processes may need tweaking to meet the regulations. However, there may be opportunities to ask ’do we need this material or could we use something better and safer?’
The operative needs both the simplicity of process and also to understand the impact of getting it wrong. This enables them to make intelligent decisions when things don’t go according to plan.
And the point of all this is that:
- Senior management need to develop clear policies;
- Supervisory levels need the practical information the underpins the systems and processes,
- But the operatives simply need to know what exactly needs to be done, how and why.
By guest blogger Malcolm Tullett
Every organisation contains knowledge, but how well does your business handle it? Is there a single place of truth where everything that is needed resides – or do you lose information when someone leaves, is away on holiday or sick, or moves up to a higher position?
More to the point – do you KNOW what you’re losing?
- You train people and then they leave – you can’t stop that happening, but how do you retain what they’ve learned?
- You promote someone and they move into a different role – how much do they actually hand over to their replacement? Is that factored into their move?
- People are unexpectedly away from work – perhaps from an accident or off sick, or have to take time off to look after a family member. Does the person who has to cover know where to look to find out what they do – and how?
- In multinational or multi-site organisations, someone gets transferred from one place to another – does their knowledge go with them and leave a gap?
Every organisation needs to have a strategy to handle its knowledge risks. Not only to record systems and processes, but to store information on a wide variety of functions. Ideally, that system also needs to have the flexibility to grow with the organisation, and handle change and improvement too.
There is a cliché ‘knowledge is power’; but that implies exclusivity of knowledge and in today’s world protecting your personal knowledge doesn’t help the organisation to function effectively – in fact, quite the reverse.
Today’s world is based on sharing openly for the benefit of your environment, whether that’s family, community or employer. Just look at the explosion of social media – all based on sharing information and knowledge.
How does your organisation stand up to the knowledge risks?