The New View

As many of my clients, connections and colleagues would know, I’m a strong advocate of the ‘new view’ of safety, so when I was invited to submit an article for the Safety Differently Website I didn’t want to merely preach to the converted.

Hence, in this short piece I have firmly placed a ”black cap” on my head (partly to play a devil’s advocate role, and partly to cover my crazy COVID-19 haircut!).

While an advocate, I have experienced, and foresee some challenges ahead which could potentially inhibit the ‘new view’ from reaching the potential that the safety field so badly needs and deserves.  Some food for thought …

Let’s get started!

I was on the ‘phone with Greg – the safety manager of a large mine site – who had been tasked by his Senior Leadership Team (SLT) to begin the process of making a “step change” in safety.   His company had been bumbling along with traditional approaches such as BBS and all the usual “Zero Harm” bullshit – in fact they had gone a step further and adopted the particularly deranged platitude of “Beyond Zero” … what, are they going to reincarnate people now?   Despite the desperately optimistic slogan, incident rates had plateaued rather than decreased over the last few years.

The call progressed along the following lines:

Greg: “So can you come to site to talk with me and the GM about what we need to do?”

Me: “Sure, but I’m tied up for a couple of weeks”

Greg: “Ok, no problem – can you suggest some reading for me in the meantime? I really want to make a start on this – we had a serious incident recently and the SLT is really on my case”.

I made a few suggestions, and then followed up with an email listing what I believed could be useful books and resources.  Greg told me he was going to a safety leadership conference prior to our meeting that he thought might also provide him with some good insights.

A few weeks later I was in Greg’s office.  He had clearly done his homework, as evidenced by him pointing to a list of words and acronyms on a whiteboard.  He had condensed what he considered to be the most salient points of the books I’d recommended, as well as what he’d picked up at the conference.  I smiled as I read through some very familiar concepts, including (but not limited to) …

  • Safety Differently
  • HOP
  • Safety II
  • Resilience Engineering
  • High Reliability Organisations
  • Human Factors

Greg said “tell me about these”.

To initially probe Greg’s own discoveries, I replied, “Sure, but first, what is your understanding of the concepts?”

Greg did a reasonable job describing the basic tenets of each approach, even if he was – from time to time – reading from highlighted sections of a moth eaten notebook. (“It’s not a test Greg!”).

“Ok” I said, “So what else do you want to know about them?” 

“Well”, Greg replied, “I want to know which one is best to use, and then how to get started – I need to provide the SLT with a tangible plan!” Picking up on Greg’s haste, I said, “Before we get into that, let’s explore a couple of questions.  What is the problem you’re wanting to solve, and what do you understand the underlying philosophies of the ‘new’ approaches to be?”

Greg smiled! “Y’know Clive, the reason the SLT wants to explore a step change is because when they look at the output from our accident investigations, it always seems like the problem is our people – taking short cuts, unnecessary risks, not wearing their gloves, rushing etc.  We are wanting to solve our people’s behaviours!” He added, with a resigned grin “And what you’re now going to tell me is that the underlying philosophy of these new concepts is that our people are NOT the problem, right?”

Right!

“Then why so many concepts?” Greg asked.  “If they’re all saying we need to look to our people for answers, why not put the various approaches under an umbrella term?  Is Safety II just a subset of Safety Differently? The other way around?  Or do they all fall under the banner of HOP?”  With urgency he added. “More to the point, when I take this to the SLT, what do I call it?”

Greg has a point.  I have asked similar questions myself, on LinkedIn discussion threads where HOP and Safety Differently nerds commonly hang out.  I recently asked why the terms Safety Differently and Safety II (not to mention HOP) are often used interchangeably when they’re actually different concepts? 

The brilliant David Provan responded, suggesting that perhaps we shouldn’t get too hung up on labels, yet he conceded it may have been better if we had just stuck with “High Reliability Organizing”.

But labels ARE important! In psychology “names set frames”.  Part of the success (in terms of prevalence and popularity) of Behaviour Based Safety (BBS) is the simplicity and brevity of the label.  It sets up a clear frame of “this is about focusing on people’s behaviours to improve safety”.  While BBS has many individual components (most of which make me want to retch), they are grouped under a very clear and salient “brand” which has served those who profit from it extremely well, despite its patent limitations in preventing major injuries.  There is (at present) no similar “branding” of the ‘new view’ – instead there are a number of vague, similar, overlapping (albeit worthy) concepts that make it more challenging for the Gregs of the world to really grab hold of, let alone “sell” to his SLT. Even when a zealous ‘new view’ advocate resolves the labeling issues, another potential challenge for Greg (and his contemporaries) is the ‘how’. 

For example, on the one hand, Sidney Dekker states that Safety Differently is not prescriptive, and that there are no checklists to follow in order to successfully implement the approach. In fact he suggests that dogmatically following a recipe would indicate a regression to traditional safety thinking. Hence, people like Greg – who intuitively find the new philosophy appealing – may be disappointed at the lack of a New View User’s Manual, and beat a hasty retreat to the comfort of BBS (NO, GREG, NO!!!!).  On the other hand, Dekker himself offers a highly prescriptive approach to facilitating a Restorative Just Culture – a central element of the ‘new view’.  This apparent contradiction possibly arises because Safety Differently, Safety II and HOP are centered around leaders inviting their people in, and therefore the output from such a collaborative methodology will necessarily be unique to a particular leader and his/her team – it is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Nevertheless, contributors to the ‘new view’ literature have identified several core processes that – while not constituting a recipe – could act as a foundation for successful implementation – and this is the sort of stuff that could really help Greg out!

Such core processes include:

  • Decentralizing and devolving power
  • De-cluttering
  • An analysis of work as imagined versus work as done
  • Appreciative Investigations
  • Restorative Just Culture

As early adopters like Simon Bown (London Luton Airport) share their first tentative steps towards operationalizing the ‘new view’ the emergence of such common themes could assist Greg’s own implementation design and strategies, at the very least giving him a starting point and a plan to present to his leaders. While successful implementation will still require him to think things through, and to bring a curious mindset to interactions with his own team, that need not prohibit him learning from the pioneers who have successfully put ‘new view’ processes into action.  A new view is worth little if there is no ‘new do!’

It’s my observation that there is far more excitement about the ‘new view’ of safety within Academia then there is within the very industries that would most benefit from applying the various concepts.  This is hardly surprising, yet it needs to change if the movement is to be more than a passing fad.  My own background is in applied, rather than theoretical psychology.  I’m actually much better at helping leaders like Greg to apply new concepts, than I am at coming up with them in the first place!  Yet my role is no less important than that of the creative types who conjure up innovative ideas.  Innovative ideas will only become innovative solutions when they are perceived to be clearly defined and actionable by people like Greg.

So Greg and I agreed it would be best (for now) to take David Provan’s advice and not worry about labels, as the sheer amount of contributing concepts to the ‘new view’ could well muddy the waters in the short presentation to the SLT.

Instead, we would focus on the underlying philosophy common to all the concepts, namely, “Our people are the solution”. 

I asked Greg “What do you think will be required for that shift to happen?”  After a short pause he responded.  “Trust!  The SLT needs to trust the workforce, and the workforce will need to trust us leaders”.  Right – Now we have a clear focus for the meeting, and a starting point for our intervention – building trust (and/or overcoming mistrust).

In a recent Podcast (The HOP Nerd), the irrepressible host (Samuel Goodman) was interviewing Sidney Dekker, perhaps the leading (and certainly the best known) advocate of the ‘new view’.  At the end of the interview, Samuel asked Sidney for a final thought he’d like to leave the listener with that tied everything together.  “We’ve got to start trusting each other,” said Dekker.

I couldn’t agree more.  There can be no successful implementation of the ‘new view’ without first building the requisite trust. Despite the role of trust being foundational to the approach, it has received scant attention in the Safety Differently literature and discussion – I believe this needs to change. If organizations fail to lay the foundations for successful implementation, the worthy approaches could fail to gain traction.

When leaders have trust in their teams, and have established psychological safety throughout their organization, the ‘new view’ holds great promise.  Moreover, where such trust already exists, the very nature of the approach is likely to help further embed and sustain psychological safety.

There is a veritable mountain of research demonstrating the links between trust and safety performance, and this may help to offset another frequent criticism of the ‘new view’ – a lack of research evidence.  In my opinion, it is rather churlish for advocates of traditional safety to attack the ‘new view’ on such grounds, given the relative recency of the approaches.  Moreover, its not like traditional safety is exactly covered in research glory!

As John Green pointed out “No-one approaches safety with more scientific rigor than the Safety Differently community – and I would throw the same challenge back to the traditional practitioners – if you are relying on Heinrich, triangles or dominoes for your safety programmes then you are the ones building on sand, you are the ones in glass houses throwing stones. The absence of scientific testing in these approaches is simply breath-taking.” – Thanks John, and don’t even get me started on BBS!  Behaviourism struggled to predict behaviours in rats and pigeons, let alone humans!

I have little doubt that the ‘new view’ will receive ample empirical support in due course.  Nevertheless, what would help in this regard is a clear set of tangible variables to measure – appealing philosophies and vague concepts will prove insufficient for the rigours of sound research. 

Ok, back to Greg.

Greg and I wrote a short presentation for the SLT, which we co-facilitated.  We outlined the research on trust and its relationship with mature safety cultures and safety performance.  We then set out an action plan for building trust among the workforce (which involved implementing several of the ‘new view’ concepts).  The availability of hard research evidence around trust enabled us to make a compelling case for change, and it was well received by the senior leaders in the room.  The journey towards doing safety differently had begun!

I spoke with Greg again recently, and he is really pleased with the progress being made on site.  He was writing up a report for the regulator, and in the document he was explaining how the company had moved beyond BBS in favour of a new evidence-based approach based on trust and relationship-based leadership.  He wanted to know what to call it …

Any suggestions?

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Clive F. Lloyd is an Australian Psychologist specialising in Safety Leadership and Culture development. He was recently named among the top 50 Global thought leaders and influencers on culture by Thinkers360. He is co-owner of, and Principal Consultant with GYST Consulting Pty Ltd and developer of the acclaimed Care Factor Program. Clive has spent the last 20 years assisting organisations to improve their safety performance by developing trust and psychological safety and doing Safety Differently. He has worked with global mining, oil & gas, construction and utilities companies in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, USA, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Singapore, China, UAE, PNG, KSA, United Kingdom and Costa Rica. He is the author of “Next Generation Safety Leadership: From Compliance to Care”.

27 Comments

  1. Daryl Brister Reply

    Greg / Clive,
    Safety @ the Frontline, or Frontline Safety, or Next Generation Workforce Safety.
    Safety 2.0 is all about listening and engaging the company’s frontline and trusting them to own it, control it, manage it. This is so critical with the ‘boomer’ workforce leaving the frontline in mass between now and 2035, so our Next Generation Workforce needs these better tools to develop their safety competence, so they can performance their jobs, being trusted and allowed to control the risk associated with their work.

    Sorry I can’t come up with anything catchy or that would make a cool acronym. Thanks for the great article and helping to change the Heartset, Mindset, Skillset out there.

  2. Tony Cartwright Reply

    Trust is definitely the key! Frontline staff need to know that management isn’t going to weaponise the SMS.
    I think aiming the ‘People are the Solution’ catch-cry at the frontline is a bit misleading, or at least not reality. Frontline workers generally provide the expertise that brings the plan together and leads to further improvement.
    It’s been fascinated having a front-row seat recently, observing one of the companies leading the charge in the Safety Differently space and how shallow and ineffective the implementation has been. SD banners and posters as far as the eye can see. Key functional staff not understanding and unable to communicate the key concepts. Managers and engineers unable to move from their perspective of seeing their workers as the root of the problem and unable/unwilling to see the opportunities to learn presented to them on a platter from the involved workers. Tools designed with the intent of facilitating discussion, building relationships and understanding variability and complexity in work not used for that purpose but used as black and white compliance assessments and for ticks in personal and departmental KPI boxes………….. so disappointing.
    I spend a bit of time in the mining industry and have run into brick walls everytime SD was raised. I’d love to talk offline about your experience Clive.

  3. Clive Lloyd Reply

    Hi Tony.
    Thanks for reading the article and sharing your experiences.
    Happy to chat offline.
    All best
    Clive

  4. Søren R. Segel Reply

    Bridging Safety, Generative Safety, Trusting Safety
    Agree Daryl, and Next Generation Safety is really what all the acronyms are about and how we progress unitedly (Management & employee) into this.
    Great article! Really appreciate that we start talking about the “How” of Safety Differently, it is really needed to keep constructive momentum.

    1. Clive Lloyd Reply

      Thanks for the feedback Søren.
      I agree, in fact my book (due for release in September) is titled “Next Generation Safety Leadership”
      All very best.
      Clive

  5. Rodney Currey Reply

    Here’s a tip to promote trust- never ever use the words “safe” or “safety”. These words always conjures up distrust immediately when heard. Safe is code for ”it might hurt me” and safety is code for “it will cost me money or time”. We should remove these words when trying to implement any safe measures, systems or improvements.😁

  6. Stewart Bankier Reply

    Very useful insights into the tried and tested domain of the “new view” of anything approach. However trust is about as far down the root “solution” not cause, tree. Simon Sinek in the TED series is currently a huge proponent of why trust matters. He explains it very well as one of the most basic human needs but importantly, significant benefits happen in teams/workforces/organisations as a result of creating trust. I guess we are somewhere around the “Maslow” area here but to get trust, we need leaders at every level. Thats where I am starting. Thanks for the article, was not aware of SD before.

  7. Jim Whiting Reply

    Hi Clive
    Great article – I wholeheartedly agree that Trust is fundamentally important in any successful approach to improved safety performance. With Respect / Care / Communication, Trust is a core component of Relationship Based Safety [ add that one to the list in you blog of contemporary approaches].
    A question – re the statement “…there is a veritable mountain of research demonstrating the links between trust and safety performance…” for my benefit can you or any SD contributor provide a short list of their reference sources on this linkage for me to quote? Regards Jim Whiting

  8. Clive Lloyd Reply

    Hi Jim.
    I did a literature review on the relationship between trust and safety performance for my book (which comes out in September). Here’s an excerpt with some key references:
    Cheers
    Clive

    A plethora of studies have identified trust as a key predictor of safety performance and an essential component of proactive safety cultures (e.g., Carrillo, 2020; Edmondson, 2019; Burns et al., 2006; Eid et al., 2011; O’Dea & Flin, 2001).
    Specifically, findings from these studies show that trust in management can increase employee engagement in safety behaviors and reduce rates of accidents (Zacharatos et al., 2005). Conversely, other studies noted that mistrust is associated with diminished personal responsibility for safety (Jeffcott et al., 2006) and increased injury rates (Conchie & Donald, 2006, cited in Conchie et al., 2011).
    Most companies want a culture in which people are willing to report hazards and near misses. Yet all too few create the psychological safety and trust required for such behaviors to become the unequivocal norm. Conchie et al. (2011) stated that trust is the foundation of a successful reporting program, and it must be actively protected. Even after many years of successful operation, a single case of a worker being disciplined as the result of a report could undermine trust and stop the flow of useful information.

  9. Rodney Currey Reply

    Trust isn’t a starting point of better safety performance, it’s a byproduct of it. Although I see the “new view” as worthwhile, I’m not convinced there is anything “new” about it.

  10. David Dunham Reply

    Clive,

    The world of safety needs more people like you who help to apply these theories in real workplaces.

    You are correct in saying that most of the excitement for these theories resides in the academy. Without practical application, this is also where they will languish. But there are many practitioners who see the potential benefits of operating within a Safety II paradigm.

    How do we ensure that the path forward is concretely paved? I fear that the discourse around New View is vague; and therefore communicating it’s tenants and benefits can be difficult. This difficulty contributes to the camp-building we see on platforms such as LinkedIn. The detractors may be justified in throwing their stones given the nebulousness of some of the New View discourse.

    Great article!

  11. Clive Lloyd Reply

    Thanks David.
    Yes, advocates of the new view would do well to listen to the criticisms (whether justified or otherwise) and attend to them.
    Thanks for your feedback.
    Clive

  12. Andrew Healy Reply

    Hi Clive , I was inspired by your article and 100 % agree of the influence of developing a trust based approach in the workplace. As a comment I’m sure we have all seen the ramifications of mistrust in the workplace as well

    Kind Regards
    Andrew Healy

  13. Brett Read Reply

    Clive,
    Thanks for a great article and nicely articulated snapshot of where the ‘new view’ in safety is currently at. I very much agree with your statement, “It has also been my experience that there is far more excitement about the ‘new view’ of safety within Academia then there is within the very industries that would most benefit from applying the various concepts.”
    I think you raise a very important question – What to call it? and one that needs an answer. It is a leaders role to create shared meaning and a common purpose. If we are thought leaders in this space of safety performance we need to provide clarity and something that practitioners and workers at the sharp end can understand and use. As you said BBS achieved this. The new view of safety needs this.
    Relationship-based safety (RBS is it?) was suggested by Jim Whiting above, I wholeheartedly support this. In a way RBS is the antithesis of BBS. You don’t need a relationship to apply BBS. You don’t even need to why you are doing it.
    Some people think of relationship as just relating to an ability to build and maintain relationships with others. It’s more than that, we have relationships to people, ideas, concepts and things.
    Relationship is the foundation that achievement is built on and there are three relationships that we are constantly making decisions about. These relationships are:
    1. Your relationship with yourself,
    2. Your relationship with others,
    3. Your relationship to your environment and purpose.
    The 3rd point includes your relationship to safety and concepts such as Safety Differently, Safety-II, The Care Factor, Rosa Carillo’s 8 Beliefs and Principles of RCL, 4 Dimensional Safety Performance to name a few. All of these approaches have a common foundation – they are about trust, leadership, care and character and they fit under the umbrella of relationship-based safety. They all flesh out the meaning and nuances of what is a sustainable and resilient approach to safety performance.

    1. Clive Lloyd Reply

      Many thanks Brett.
      Maybe its time we assisted organisations to move beyond the limitations of Behaviour Based Safety (BBS) towards Relationship Based Safety (RBS). That is what is at the heart of trust and the ‘new view’ of safety.
      All best.
      Clive

  14. Elisa Lynch Reply

    Hi Clive,

    Thank you for this article. As someone who is interested in the Safety Differently approach, I find my self reading and reading about it, but not getting very far with the ‘how to’ aspect!

    I think for safety professionals who are so used to having procedures to refer to, it’s a hard leap to make without a road map or guideline of some sort, and that’s from someone who is keen to embrace this, let alone those who aren’t!

    Thanks again,
    Elisa

    1. Clive Lloyd Reply

      Hi Elisa.
      Yes, the ‘how’ can be challenging. There are a number of articles in the Safety Differently website that offer examples of how the new view can be implemented. For example, have a look at Simon Bown’s London Luton Airport study. I have a book coming out in October that also provides a roadmap for doing Safety Differently. It’s called ‘Next Generation Safety Leadership: From Compliance to Care’
      Thanks for reading and responding.
      All best.
      Clive

  15. Craig Marriott Reply

    Hi Clive
    Good work. I have avoided labels in implementing, partly because we have fused a few different parts of the various approaches to come up with something that works for our context. But mainly because I wanted to avoid the cyncial, “Here’s the next fad, let’s pretend to be enthused until it peters out and goes away”.
    I have emphasised above all else the link between good work and safe work and we just talk about this being the way we work now.

  16. Brett Read Reply

    It’s just gone a month since Clive wrote this article. At the time I commented and supported the idea of the term Relationship Based Safety to describe the ‘New View’ of safety. However, I’ve since checked that term and it is copyrighted in Australia. But the need still exists, as Clive said: labels ARE important! In psychology “names set frames”.
    It’s clear from the comments of practitioners, across various forums, that there is a need for us all to settle on a term that creates shared meaning for what we are talking about. I am currently writing a book on safety leadership with my colleague Rod Ritchie. For the last 15+ years we have used the term COP leadership to describe ABC Model based leadership styles including BBS. COP stands for Control, Order, Prescribe. It’s what the old school leadership style did. Rod and I are now using the term COP-Safety to describe the safety-I or COnventional/Presciptive style of safety. It is based on Control, Order, Prescibe. We now use the term SocioTechnical-Safety as an umbrella term for the ‘new view’ of safety. Clive nailed it when he said “names set frames”, I suggest that COP-Safety captures what the old school approach is. SocioTechnical-Safety (ST-Safety) captures what the new view is. In our book we propose that using these terms would help to create shared meaning across the field of safety. The really good thing about the term SocioTechnical-Safety is that it is not a ‘new view’. The term SocioTechnical has been around since the late 1940’s when it was coined by Eric Trist from the Tavistock Institute. Rosa Carillo wrote about it recently in her brilliant book, The Relationship Factor in Safety Leadership (2019). As Clive mentioned in a comment above his book which is due out shortly talks about how you implement a sociotechnical approach. For many good leaders and their organisations an ST-Safety approach is not new; it’s what they have always done. Paul O’Niell’s approach at Alcoa in the 1990’s was a ST-Safety approach. It’s what I’ve been doing with Rod Ritchie for more than 20 years. Now we just have a name for it.

  17. Brett Read Reply

    Please excuse my typo on the spelling of Paul O’Neill’s name. Humans – we make mistakes – right?

  18. Clive Lloyd Reply

    For all the reasons you describe Brett, and the fact that HOP, SD, SII etc sit well under the umbrella, I think Sociotechnical-Safety fits very well.

  19. Rob Long Reply

    Of course when trust is the issue that nasty word ‘faith’ follows. Nothing is more certain than the paradox of uncertainty which is how Fromm defines faith. If ever there was an industry more avoidant of a word it’s this safety industry yet, observe the language and so much is about ‘belief’, ‘trust’, ‘hope’, mystery’ and other transcendent discourse. An understanding of these unconscious enactments doesn’t come from science or measurement but rather a transdisciplinary approach that embraces uncertainty with a broad brush. I see so much faith-based decision making in safety hidden in orthodox discourse about evidence yet at the same time making huge leaps of faith (that obviously John Green recognises) in frustration about the unknown and consciousness. The Handbook on Trust Research (Bachman and Zaheer 2006) might be a good start. … or maybe even Theology has something to ad value to the narrative? That might be different.

  20. Rodney Currey Reply

    Here I sit at the start or a second wave COVID -19 in Victoria watching it unfold to higher levels of infection across communities on the cusp of stage four restrictions… I see how trust has been generally abandoned on both sides -the government’s restraints by not acting sooner and lifting restrictions too soon, shows they don’t trust themselves in making the effective decisions for fear of harm politically. And the the general public don’t trust that the restrictions are going to protect them from harm effectively as the government didn’t act sooner.
    Until those that make the hard calls trust and show faith that their processes and decisions are the way to go….. the people won’t put their trust and faith in their leaders.

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