A Caution for Those Enamored by International Safety Standard Compliance Systems

There are some very important messages here about creativing VS compliance.

“Participation is not a choice. We have no choice but to invite people into the process of rethinking, redesigning, restructuring the organization. We ignore people’s need to participate at our own peril.”

“A second principle also derives from life’s need for participation: Life always reacts to directives, it never obeys them. It never matters how clear or visionary or important the message is. It can only elicit reactions, not straightforward compliance.”


Once you’ve forced compliance with “the system” that’s been inflicted using historical “management systems”…you’ll need to evolve to the next level where the work process system is developed and breathes with the participation of the very people designing the process…the people doing the work.

Feel free to disagree…and then list ten CEOs who are rewarded because they have complied with last year’s “system”…well you probably could but they don’t work there any more. :O)

Novemeber Safety Results Newsletter –


The Best Book I Ever Read

The following is an article I wrote a few years ago for the Canadian Occupational Safety magazine hat I write for. I also included it in my second book “Creating & Maintaining a Practical Based Safety Culture” I hope that you have a “Best” Book…actually I hope you have many…I do. Obviously a follow-up article is in order and on it’s way!

 I was having lunch recently with a long time friend and colleague. He’s also an author and we were chatting about life, family, books and our profession. During this reflection time he casually asked me “What’s the best book that you’ve ever read?” This question coming from an author begs the answer “Well, yours of course.” In this case, I just couldn’t bring myself to say that, even though my friend’s book is indeed a fine and thought provoking literary work. This question, although casual in nature, sent me on a thought journey of significant proportion. You see, at the moment, I blurted out one of the management “best seller” books I had recently been reading and I went on to talk about how inspirational the author was but honestly my answer wasn’t very carefully selected.

After lunch I jotted the question down in my notebook for further reflection and exploration. So here’s what I’ve come up with as a more thoughtful answer…

Define “the best”

If I define “the best” as the one book that influenced me the most, I’d answer differently than “the best” being defined as most entertaining. I have some favorite fiction writers that I turn to when I’m sitting on a sunny beach somewhere. For this question, I decided that “the best” meant the most meaningful in my life, the most influential, and the book that perhaps even changed my life.

I have an extensive library mostly filled with textbooks from my formal education studies and my professional practice. I have all of Dan Petersen’s books; many organizational behaviour and business management texts. There is a large selection of texts that the Board of Certified Safety Professionals list as required reading. I put these to good use in our workshops to help budding CRSP’s in their studies to pass the examination. There’s a Behaviour Based Safety section with the entire list of well known authors in their field. There are even several Occupational Hygiene texts that I’ll freely admit I only use as references and have not read cover to cover.

As I gazed at what is a significant collection of OH&S knowledge I couldn’t help but focus on a thick, tattered text which sat in the very first position top left.

The Short & Fat NSC Book

The National Safety Council’s Accident Prevention Manual for Industrial Operations 5th Edition (1964) with its lightly soiled and scuffed cover and slightly damaged binding grabbed my attention. I opened the cover to see my name proudly printed on the inside cover beside the name of the fellow OH&S officer I had worked with so many years ago. This fellow was retiring and he had given me his “resources” book. He’d used it in his career and he was now passing it on to me since his need for it was about to diminish significantly. I believe he was planning to go fishing! I wish that I could remember more clearly our conversation about this book but I believe he told me that someone had given it to him. From the condition and date of publication that would certainly make sense.

This text had a huge influence on what I thought about the history and science of safety management. At the time I was very new into my chosen profession and really not very knowledgeable. I was very eager to learn so that certainly influenced the amount of impact that this book’s contents could and would have on me. The knowledge packed between the worn covers revealed a whole new way to look at protecting humans. Safety hazards and controls such as guards, pinch points, rotating shafts, levers and mechanical advantage were all revealed to me. Roll over protective structures, ladders, scaffolding and toe boards were all detailed for my sponge-like, information thirsty brain to absorb. I learned about Job Safety Analysis, fall protection, hoisting and rigging and the Accident Investigation. I even learned the proper way to pick up that special nicely squared box that fits oh so well between the knees of the worker in the picture so he could lift “with legs and not his back.”  Partly because of what I learned from this book there was a time when I could quote chapter and verse the controls for trench cave in and the cut back angles for various types of soils. It was all there alright, just waiting for me to inflict this new knowledge that I’d gained on my unfortunately less informed fellow humans.

Back then I was an OH&S officer for the Alberta Government driving around the province enforcing what were fairly new OH&S Act and Regulations. Inspecting random worksites and investigating serious injury incidents filled my day. Writing “orders” for improvements to the non-compliant masses. Indeed the science of safety filled my days and often well into the night. Through my formative years I often referred to this National Safety Council text as my safety “bible”. It would be many years until I realized that this text was really only half of the puzzle. I would gradually find out that the “short and fat “ text was missing a big part of the “art” of safety. That art I would learn from many other sources and mentors…but that’s another story for another time.

The National Safety Council has gone on to improve their knowledge of the art and science of safety management and pass it on to us through their many texts and products. A book by the same title as my aged text is now in its 12th edition. I highly recommend that you consider adding this text and many of their other wonderful resources to your library.  You can even get their materials on CD. By the way I’m not on commission nor is there any financial arrangement with me and the NSC…they are just great folks who’ve given a great deal of themselves to help us understand how we can help each other stay safe and healthy.

Now I guess I’ll have to give some thought to which young safety geek I should pass this old trooper of a text on to when I retire…whoever you are…don’t be holding your breath, I’m having way too much fun at this!

It’s Wonderful When a Plan Comes Together!

When designing and implementing safety management systems it’s often difficult to calculate the real results achieved from our efforts.

Just this morning I receive a note from a client noting their significant success in their safety outcomes…I just had to share their impressive results!

“Al thanks for your support over the last year. 2011 was indeed a performance “step level” change for HSE results in our  Delivery Unit and I appreciate your training program to introduce an important part of our Behavior programs. It really works, both you and I know that but when I review the results this year, it once again hits home how effective our program is. Thought you might like some “data” (as you know I am a data guy!).

We introduced, formally, our safety management system (the what) and our BBS program (the how) c/w coaches and training support for the drilling leaders and drilling front line workers and this is what THEY did.

“We introduced, formally, our safety management system (the what) and our BBS program (the how) c/w coaches and training support for the drilling leaders and drilling front line workers and this is what THEY did.

Lost time incident frequency improved 86% in one year, moved from 4th Quartile to industry leading 1st Quartile (compared to Oil & Gas Producers, which is a tough peer group).

Total Recordable incident frequency improved 61% from last year we are now seeing months where we only have one minor!  When I arrived here we were averaging 10/month and on several months were as high as 14 (hurting someone every other day!).

Our frequency for High Profile Incidents (the bad ones!) improved by 53% and most important none involved personal injury.

Regulatory inspections improved from an average of only 45% satisfactory in 2010 (I have never seen such low numbers!) to an exit of 90% satisfactory inspections (close to 400 inspections so no small feat!).

All of this while increasing the capital spend and bringing in numerous new staff and unfortunately changing out those who did not fit our culture.

Pretty dammed impressive Al Quilley. We are a team and I want you to know how effective this has worked across all areas where we have work together!

I look forward to doing it all over again in 2012, lots to do but now we are rolling!”

Welcome to all of the new visitors…please leave a comment!

Well I finally did it…after several years of thinking that I should do this I finally found the time to create a Blog. I hope you enjoy it as a place to come to discuss the search for Safety Excellence. Please leave a comment and let us know you were here!

Best Regards

Alan D. Quilley CRSP

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“Safety doesn’t just happen… It comes as a result of intelligent planning, thoughtful activity, skilful execution, constant measurement and continual adjustment.”