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SCnSP – Obsolete Safety – Part 1

Mar 2017

Obsolete Safety

(Part 1)

obsolete printer


It was with great sadness that I had to pull the plug on my HP990 CXI. It was this printer that enabled me to self-publish over 550 copies of my first book (some 210 000 pages). Over its 17-year lifespan, it processed close to 2 tons of paper. I feel a real sense of loss, because, to use an old cliche, they just don’t make them like this anymore. On this trusty printer’s death certificate, the technician wrote: “Obsolete. No spare parts available anymore.”


It’s one of those killer words. It originates from the Latin obsolescere meaning “to fall into disuse” – a very handy adjective for anything that is determined to no longer be of any use. It can be applied to words, factories, computer software, ways of thinking – anything that has, usually, been displaced by a newer, shinier innovation.

Let’s consider workplace safety, in the light of obsolescence.

As far as I’m concerned, if you’re still using Heinrich’s pyramid[1], or your safety systems are based on compliance, near misses, Zero Harm and Safety First, then your approach to safety in the workplace is obsolete. A harsh judgement? Perhaps, but it’s true. (Heinrich’s empirical findings date back to the 1930’s!)

So what’s the answer?

It’s not a new (computer) system, but rather, being willing to adopt a fresh approach, to look at things from a different angle / perspective. And not because it’s cool or the current trend, but because you recognise that what you have in place is obsolete.

Resistance to change

We like to stay in our comfort zone – the place where we know what to do and don’t have to work too hard to get it done. It’s tough to admit that what we’re doing might have been superseded by something better. My VW Beetle was a most wonderful vehicle. I hung onto it for years and years, even though it was outdated. Compared to today’s cars, it’s performance and reliability, fuel efficiency, emissions, driving comfort and safety were poor. Still, I loved the “Volksie” sound. It was hard to let it go.

Change is inevitable

One of the constants of our life, as we know it, is that everything that is being done today will be done better, faster, more cheaply and more safely, i.e. more efficiently, in the future. That’s because change is driven by a mindset of “we want it and we want it now”. This is true not only of photography, banking, transport, music, communication, food consumption, or any other field you care to think of. It’s true of Health and Safety too.

The way to go

Disruptive Safety™ is a solution-based model which totally transforms the way in which workplace safety is approached. It’s about moving The Elephant (safety culture) and getting everyone to really own safety. A key component of Disruptive Safety™ is the manner in which H&S Reps are engaged, viz. by shifting their attentions so that, instead of focusing only on prevention and compliance, they also apply a proactive approach of making sure things go right.

Picture: Disruptive safety call to action icon

Examine your safety approach.

Ask better questions. Ask the right people. Don’t make assumptions or be complacent. Are you doing the same things over and over but expecting better results?

Now answer the question: Is your safety approach obsolete?
If yes, then you’re ready for Disruptive Safety™. Contact us if you want to know more about it.

[1]   Herbert William Heinrich’s 300-29-1 ratio, also known as Heinrich’s triangle, pertaining to his premise re the foundation of a major injury.


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GM – Road Safety – Year-End “Take Safety Home” Message

♦♦♦    Road Safety    ♦♦♦

Year-End Take Safety Home Message

Those of you who have been following me for some time know how passionate I am about this topic. We kill nearly ten times more people on our roads each year than ALL industrial fatalities combined in all workplaces. Chances are that if you are going to lose someone over the holiday season, it will be on the roads. This is not only via vehicle accidents – pedestrian fatalities account for approximately 40% of road-related deaths.

graphic of ambulance with money

We are able to release last year’s crime statistics in the greatest of detail so the SAPS can plan and focus on the right hot spots. But, in spite of substantial funding, the Department of Transports Road Traffic Management Corporation is unable to provide road accident statistics, because they are “reengineering the Road Traffic information collection process”. In terms of road safety, we are effectively flying blind. I cannot give you the exact figure, but I can tell you that the cost of road accidents runs into billions – we could easily build and maintain our road infrastructure if we could halve our accidents.

We all know that we cannot improve something which we are not measuring and the latest road traffic data is from 2011! We can be as concerned as we like about the current situation, but we can only influence what is within our control. Therefore, let us influence our employees to become ACTIVE SAFE road users.

There are three things which kill people on the roads ( F S D )

The first is FATIGUE. If people are tired and take their eyes off the road, the likelihood of accidents shoots up dramatically. Thus encourage the habit of taking a break and getting enough sleep before a road trip.

SPEED is the second killer. Speed reduces the opportunity to react to any unforeseen event and stay in control!

DRINKING (Drugs) is the third killer. Alcohol has a disastrous effect on your reaction time as well as staying awake and alert.


1. Draw up your plan for the year-end now! Involve your SHE Reps in that planning – empower them to play an ACTIVE role in implementing some of the ideas below, as well as coming up with their own suggestions.
2. Road Safety Cookie
  graphic of ambulance with money This is a small hand-out to engage ALL your employees in road safety and to remind them to take a safety attitude with them when going home for the holidays.
These Road Safety Cookies™ have been specifically branded with road safety signs and the cookie inserts are road safety messages.
There are many ways to use this COOL TOOL™.
  One idea is to put the name(s) of employees killed during the year in road accidents on the back of the cookie inserts eg. + IN MEMORY OF +
I will assist you with customisation to meet your specific needs.
More ideas
on how to use the Safety Cookies here.
3. Road Safety Toolbox Talks. I am offering this series of 6 CD’s at a special discount of R2,750. These CD’s are part of my COOL TOOL™ Toolbox Talks and cover the Road Safety Topics of Seat Belts, Attitude, Road Signs, Pedestrians and vehicles – download the overview.
3. Advanced Driving Safety Rules. Get your SHE Reps to hand out a leaflet, with advanced driving tips, to everyone leaving your premises when taking their year-end break.
If you need ideas for this, send me an email.
4. Look at activities you can sponsor at schools in your neighbourhood, for example driving lessons or driving simulators for schools.


A Hong Kong movie theatre asks its patrons to leave their cell phones ON when they enter the movie house. Using that, Volkswagen made an eye opening advertisement.

Have you been tagged?
Caught at a road block
Taking your eye off the ball / road / task
Walking the circle of safety
Safety misconceptions – what we can learn from them
Manslaughter or murder?


  • RTMC latest annual report is 2012- 2013. (If you look at Section 8, in particular the part which reviews the achievement of their strategic objective “improve collection of data” on page 56, you will find that they did not achieve KPI 32 = State of Road Safety Report. The financials are in Section 9 on page 71.)
  • Arrive Alive has no up to date info either – last report is 2011.


Your feedback and comments are always welcome! Drop me a line!

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SCnSP – Do Not Disturb the Crime (Accident) Scene


In this series, I share with you my thoughts on Why Safety Is An Issue For Most Companies i.e. Things We Must Address If We Want To Improve Our Safety Performance.

  Do Not Disturb the Crime (Accident) Scene  

Listening to some of the earlier testimony of the Oscar Pistorius trial, I couldn’t but notice that the defence attorney made a meal of “disturbing the crime scene”, because it cast doubt on what actually happened.

Ladies and gentlemen,
“I put it to you” that
not “disturbing the crime scene”
must apply to accident scenes too.

After something has gone wrong and people are injured or some serious damage has been done, the first action that needs to be taken is to immediately shut down the process, stop the operation and isolate the energy. Then the injured should be attended to and the area made safe.

The next step is to cordon off the accident scene and prevent people from walking about.  Why limit access to the area?  The most compelling reason is so as to not disturb the accident scene until investigators have had a chance to understand what really happened.

There is a temptation by all who have a badge, or who have a vehicle with a “blue / red light”, siren and emergency radio, to rush into the accident zone. This can be catastrophic, like what happened recently at the N1 incident near Polokwane, where 4 police officers were killed.

picture of emergency barricade at SASOL Polymers - Sasolburg

I have seen the same thing happen in a number of industrial accidents. During the time that I worked in an explosives factory, 14 people were killed – an entire management team wiped out – while they were investigating an explosion which had happened the previous day.

When you are dealing with chemicals, gasses, combustible materials and even on construction sites, restrict the number of investigators to the absolute minimum, until you are sure you have an understanding of what happened and that it is safe for emergency people to enter the scene.

Passers-by who want to “look and see” what happened should be kept well away from an accident scene. This is not a spectator sport – unfortunately we see this too often at road accidents – everyone slowing down and gawking to try and see some blood and guts. This often creates an even bigger hazard and can lead to secondary accidents.


Review your emergency procedures and make sure you have the sequence correct:



Explosion on N1 – Investigating Accidents


“The Best Audits”         “Good Housekeeping”         “Is This a Circus?”


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GM – Madiba Magic

♦♦♦    MADIBA MAGIC    ♦♦♦
Dec 2013
Honouring Madiba

Together with a deep sense of sorrow and loss, I feel immense gratitude for Madiba. I am grateful for having experienced a ‘living legend’ who was able and willing to take the ‘Long Walk to Freedom’. This icon of peace left a legacy which influenced this country, indeed the whole world. What a blessing for us all. Let’s celebrate his life, rather than mourn his death.

How did he do this? He shared with us his DREAM of peace through nation building and reconciliation. He stood on the steps of the union building and said: “Never, never and never again … ” He convinced this country, and the ANC hardliners, WHY they should follow his lead. Madiba walked his talk. He was a man of ACTION. He was serious about his dream. He used his ‘Madiba Magic’ on young and old, because he truly cared for ALL people. He remains the ultimate leadership role model. He travelled to Orania on 15 August 1995 to wish ‘tannie Betsie Verwoerd’ a happy birthday. This was reconciliation in ACTION, for the whole world to see.

With the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Madiba had the insight and wisdom to masterfully use the unifying power of sport. This is what I wrote regarding that event, in my book, Life EduAction:

June 24 in 1995 was a turning point. That day the hopes of the South African nation rested on the shoulders of those 15 players of the national rugby team. The capacity crowd burst forth into chanting: “Nelson, Nelson, Nelson … ” when President Mandela, or Madiba as he is fondly known, entered the stadium, wearing the captain’s No. 6 jersey. Madiba magic at its best. This world class statesman knew exactly what he would achieve by this simple, yet so powerful gesture. He had the astuteness to recognise the opportunity to inspire the team, unify the nation and take reconciliation a giant leap forward. This day was a ‘man on the moon’ type of achievement for all South Africans. Bishop Tutu reflected later that “Winning the rugby world cup was a single event that changed the history of this country.” The rainbow nation was finally born.

How can we forget how Nelson Mandela steered us to safer waters after the massacre of 45 people at Boipatong in the Vaal Triangle in June 1992? Or the tipping point on the afternoon of the 10th of April, 1993, when Chris Hani was assassinated outside his home in Boksburg? Madiba lead us from the very real prospect of civil war, to lasting peace!

Lala Ngoxolo Mkhulu wethu othandekayo


If you want to pay homage to this awesome human being, then take lessons from his legacy and apply them to your area of influence:

  • Have a safety DREAM; share this with all your people and have the courage to dream BIG.
  • Make sure your people understand WHY safety is important and that they take safety home as well.
  • Find opportunities to see and be seen – you are serious about safety.
  • Become a living safety legend. When people see you they must think and see safety.


Your comments and feedback are always welcome!

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SCnSP – Discipline

Oct 2012

In this series, I share with you my thoughts on Why Safety Is An Issue For Most Companies.
One of the Things We Must Address If We Want To Improve Our Safety Performance is DISCIPLINE.
A safe operation requires employees who are SELF-disciplined. What drives it? How can you get it?


Discipline and Passion

key ingredients in the foundation mix of safety

Picture: collage depicting that passion in anything leads to self-discipline


DISCIPLINE is a key ingredient in the foundation mix of safety. NO discipline means NO sustainable safety.

The crown of discipline is SELF-DISCIPLINE – everybody taking safety seriously, all the time, without policing, at work and at home . . . . the habit of doing the safe thing and working to a code of conduct.

A close cousin to self-discipline is PASSION. Commitment – Dedication – Focus – Consistent – Concentration – Perseverance. These all are features of passion.

The best way to explain the strong link between passion and self-discipline is the sports analogy. World class sportsmen and women have an immense passion for their sport. As a result of passion, they develop the self-discipline to get up at the crack of dawn and into the water or onto the track to practice, practice, and practice, every day to improve their skill and performance. They play to the rules of the game and are fanatical about reaching their goals to become (world) champions in their field. These champs have bridged the gap between reason and desire.

The Road to Safety Discipline is a tough one, spanning a four-pillared bridge of self-discipline – cleanliness, orderliness, punctuality and compliance.

What is called for are independent safety thinkers and consequently active safety employees. We have to grow Safety BEE’s – Behaviour (safety) Empowered Employees. We have to get people beyond understanding and even accepting the reason for safety to having a deep felt desire to practice safety.

How to grow employees to be passionate about safety and thus safety self-discipline?

This is the most demanding challenge you will face in terms of behavioural safety. I use the player / coach analogy. The player has to show up and practice, which includes doing things that are not fun like fitness training, or in a safety sense, good housekeeping. The coach must be, consistently, a safety VIP – Visible, Involved, Pro-active. This LEADERSHIP ROLE is critical.

The full article on this subject, “The Power of Discipline”, is available as a download.



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The Power of Gold

One of the most powerful motivators is RECOGNITION, and yet few of us use the full potential of this simple technique, because it’s a tough habit to practise. This is best illustrated using the Olympics as an example.

For most of the competitors. it is about making it onto the podium and bringing home a medal – preferably gold. They will have practised for countless hours, taken part in many events and pushed themselves to extreme limits.

Most of us have no idea just what it takes to get into the Olympic team. It is literally blood, sweat and tears combined with dogged determination, self-sacrifice and a single-minded goal mentality. Not because they are being paid for it, not because of policies and procedures, and certainly not because they have to (comply) … but because they want to be the best… the best they can be and to make it onto the winner’s podium.

That is what drives them – the ‘Power of Gold’.

Obviously, there are only a few who reach the Olympics level, but the principle of RECOGNITION applies to all levels of competitive sport. The ‘Power of Gold’ is imprinted on us from the time that we compete for the first time in primary school.

From a safety perspective, the ‘Power of Gold’ does not mean recognising only those safety achievements that are outstanding. To leverage this power, we should make it a habit to identify good safety behaviour by making the time and effort to tell the individual or team what you have taken note of and why it is important. This is why I encourage event organisers to use my “Isibopho” red / green card and whistle.

STOP, and say thank you when you see someone doing the right and safe thing. Just imagine if all your employees were to practise this habit on a regular basis – the ‘Power of Gold’ would be priceless, taking your safety culture to a different level.

WARNING – It goes without saying that recognition only works if it is genuine and deserved. Do not make it a hollow and meaningless gesture. Also, even if the person being recognised is uncomfortable when you give them genuine ‘hugs and kisses’, don’t let that put you off. Do it anyway. Keep it brief, specific and appropriate.

BTW … This is not a new concept. In the book ‘The One Minute Manager’, Kenneth Blanchard devotes an entire chapter to the ‘one-minute praises’.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Safety Misconceptions:
What can we learn from them?

Safety is often full of misconceptions.
One such example is the mode of transport we choose based on our perceptions about which is the safest option.

One of the biggest killers is our roads.
Thousands of people (last year it was over 12,000) get killed on South African roads each year. This is much more than people killed in accidents in industry or mining. In fact, the chances are 10 times higher someone gets killed in a road accident than an accident at work.

If it’s a choice between flying and driving by car, I’ll take flying any day.
It is much safer and it is also much less stressful for me. Flying is the safest form of transport. The misconception about the risk of flying stems from the newsworthiness of a flying incident, like the recent Albatross disaster.

The same misconception holds true for riding a bike.
The young, reckless hell drivers have tarnished the image of responsible, adult bikers. I have been riding a bike for over 40 years and still consider it much safer than driving a car.

When I am driving my bike, I put my attention 100% on the ride, the road, the traffic and what’s going on around me. I am fully alert and take extra care when changing lanes, turning and stopping. There is no way I can go into auto pilot, which is what often happens to many of us when driving a familiar route. Apart from all of this, a bike is 110% hijack proof. 😀

“What’s the lesson?” you ask?

Test your perceptions –
They could be misconceptions!


ps … Soon after drafting this blog, I had – NO, caused – a serious accident on my bike. I will tell you about it in a separate post – what happened and why, what I learnt from my root cause analysis, and the concept of ‘being lucky’.

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