Gloves and Glasses Compliance

by Dr Rob Long on June 13, 2014

in PPE,Robert Long

Gloves and Glasses Compliance

By Dr Robert Long

Protective glovesI wonder how many safety people will hit on this blog just because of the title? I did wonder for some time what more petty a title I could present but decided this would do. What a sad state when the lowest defence in the Hierarchy of Controls draws the greatest attraction. I wonder why this has become the trend? Is it because the mantra of the industry is risk aversion? Is it because PPE is so easy to police? Is it because the air space is full of zero? Is it because the SWMS cash cow has deluded everyone into thinking that quality is determined by volume? Maybe it is all of these things.

Then there will be the PPE police who will only read that I think it’s good to injure eyes and hands and this is not the point. The good old binary mindset has to see black and white to the exclusion of one option in favour of another. Learning to read beyond binary thinking enables a reader to consider ‘both-and’ not ‘either-or’ thinking. Learning how to read and write is not about literacy but about semiology. Many people think that reading is just reading, words are just semantics but reading critically and reading as a thinking process doesn’t come naturally. One of the biggest challenges for people doing the Post Graduate Program in the Psychology of Risk is learning how to read and articulate ideas. It is a shame that learning how to read and articulate ideas is not part of standard safety training.

For those interested, I have developed a range of tools (dozens in fact) that help develop leading in risk. One such tools is the iThink™ Critical Thinking Clock (Figure 1. below) as a tool to help learn how to read, think and write. This is one of many tools I use with clients in the risk maturity journey.

Figure 1. iThinkCritical Thinking Clock


It is because learning and knowledge is cumulative, linear and ‘scaffolded’ (Vygotsky) that capability in reading, thinking and articulation of ideas is something one learns developmentally over time. This is why the Risk and Safety Maturity Matrix introduced previously, needs to be viewed as a whole rather than as a segmented metaphor. An understanding of learning intelligences and education/revelation is important in this regard. The general idea of the iThink clock is to ‘sweep’ through a range of rational and non-rational processes in tackling an issue, problem or idea.

The reality is, all risk assessment is a decision making that includes the constant shuffling of priorities and options. This is a necessary aspect of managing the evolution of hazards. Risk decision making is best when it is fluid and adaptable rather than fixed. Whilst it is good to have guiding tools, it is also good to be able to think outside of the design of the tool. Unfortunately, if the mind of the workforce is made to obsess about low risk and checklists (back to the topic of this blog), how much is this a distraction from a focus on the high risk and fluid nature of the workplace.

One of the easiest tasks on a safety walk or risk assessment is to ‘hit’ the obvious and visible things. Checklists do a good job of focusing the thinking of participants if they are not doing a ‘tick and flick’. Unfortunately, it is rarely what we can see that harms people. It is mostly the invisible things, the things people don’t see coming and the cultural things that harm us. Are we so preoccupied with the physicality of hazards that we have become desensitized to observing and listening for high risk invisible hazards? Are we so consumed with the way a checklist shapes thinking that we are losing the craft of independent critical thinking? Are we so consumed with tagging that we don’t hear how toxic cynicism, skepticism and double speak are to safety culture? Where are people trained in the skills required to ask open questions, observe (not spy) and listen for cultural indicators? Do safety people even know what cues to listen and look for? In my safety training I call this having an ‘iCue’ not an IQ. Learning how to observe and listen for cultural indicators (iCues) is not simple, culture is not just systems, PPE and behavior. Again, learning how to recognise iCues does not come naturally and in some respects requires some ‘unlearning’ of a number of safety myths and methods that are misleading and hinder effective risk assessment.

One of the interesting attractions for the many tier 1 safety people who attend the Post Grad Program is learning to understand and think more critically about risk. Without exception they all say after Unit 3 that little of what they have been introduced to in the Program is considered by their companies. Most comment that the way risk is addressed is narrow, formulistic and closed. Indeed, most comment that it is a straight jacket to fit into rather than a tool to assist free and critical thinking about risk. It was one of these people who told me his company did a 2 hour induction for using a vacuum cleaner.

So, should we wear gloves and glasses? Of course, if they help manage risk. Is PPE what risk is all about? You decide.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.
  • Richard Forster

    Doctor Rob – You keep delivering the caviar mate, another great article,as always, your articles get me thinking and more importantly acting!

    • Rob Long

      Thanks Richard, glad you find my work helpful and educative. If you contact me at happy to send you something.

  • Mark D

    As always, I will defend “safety People” as I know what it is like to be a frontline safety person stuck between
    legal, people and production. A safety person is NOT the owner of risk, nor are they the manager/decision makers of risk or the implementer of said actions…just keep this in mind everyone.

    High risk (in context of the work) should have been investigated in a safety assessment/study conducted prior
    to the organisation commencement of operation. A safety assessment is a comprehensive and systematic investigation and analysis of ‘all’ aspects of risks to health and safety associated with events that may potentially occur in the course of operation.

    A safety walk should not have to look for high risk activities for 1) they should be addressed by the competent
    workers overseeing/doing the task if the risk presents itself outside of the known context 2) the organisation should have already addressed high risk prior to the inception (could be at the start or an introduction of a new topic into the company that should have gone through a risk assessment process) of any new risk. Who is best to understand their team, the team leader of the operation, not the safety person or for that matter the CEO.

    Rob to help your cause, you need to stop alluding that safety people are simple; your first sentence is derogative saying that a ‘petty’ title would be enough to get safety people read this article. I wish we could stop making ‘silos’ within the workplace and start treating the whole organisation as a collective of people whose values and expertise are appreciated equally.

    In such tragic events such as the Beaconsfield mine incident, it was the officers that failed to think critically about the expert advice being presented; it is the officers who did not address critical safety concerns in relation to that industry it was also the workers who did not think critically as they had families to feed and lives to live. Therefore it is not just the ‘safety people’ or safety department (silo) that needs to think critically, the whole organisation does and I am sure this is what they mean by Due Diligence of officers.

    I do like the rational arrow and prompts to think, but I am little confused how you can think arational about anything. Maybe give an example.

    And skepticism is doubt and uncertainty (primary principle of risk management), and can be a very good way to be a critical thinker. We have to stop making scepticism a bad word that makes people fearful of raising their uncertainty about risk.

    • Mark D

      I just wanted to add something further to this post to get people thinking, that I did not add before due to length of text regarding common approach to learning. I have always questioned our learning styles and thought critically about our over structured way of life. I would like for people to think of the possibility that all that you know may not be true, as we humans know very little (although we think we know everything). I.e. just think for a second that our current approach to learning is incorrect and that there is another way…keep reading.

      I remember reading a study done by Professor Mitra, Chief scientist at NIIT called “hole in the wall” (I think there is something on YouTube about it) a few years ago when I was thinking about the ‘way’ we learn; this being we only think (from being told) that we learn ‘only’ in cumulative and linear ways etc, this study shows a different story.

      When I came across this Minimally Invasive Education (MIE) idea, it immediately drew me in as it seemed plausible, it made sense to the way I think about things. I then asked; if thinking outside the box cannot follow any known typical approach (as nothing exists outside the box) how can one learn via structure if they do not know what is outside the box? Maybe there is a reason why we are forced to follow a linear process and told that we can only learn this way. Maybe it’s a way to make our kids only reach a level of education to meet an age group. We could not have a 15 year old genius doctor practicing medicine who learned in a chaotic way now could we!…maybe current schooling practices is dumbing us down!!!

      This is why I am sceptical towards having pictures depicting a relative left to right direction toward a goal, of people climbing up to reach that thing, steps, stages, timeline, levels of complexity, as it is all a well structured, calculated, semi predictable and reductionism approach to get to the “collective outcome”, using a safety concept ‘a’ world class generative safety culture as shown by Hudson etc.

      I just think we have to be open to possibility, and not take peoples word on anything (and I don’t mean that in a negative way), sure we have to follow what we have to follow to do our jobs, but this does not mean its right because someone says it is.

      Think outside the box it if you wish.

      There is a thing out there full of endless possibilities, don’t constrain yourself to possible out-dated research completed a minute ago, as tomorrow may open a whole new paradigm shift. MD

  • Mark Morrison, Pres Meg Fire

    Great read TY for your continued work.
    I missed the sales aid comment as I turfed here from LinkedIn, but regardless what is wrong with trying to sell. You give away so much in just the exchange of thought, that if someone can’t take the concept and mold it to their circumstances then they are next in line for the “Latest quick fix”, and I feel sad for the employees.
    Having been involved in Life Safety for the last 15 plus years as a vocation, I get it. I also dare to say there are many others out there as well. Please continue with the knowledge that this was one “star fish” who survived.

    • Rob Long

      Thanks Mark, always good to meet a fellow traveller who ‘gets it’. Write to me off line and I will post you a book if you like.

  • Rob Long

    What strange people, this sector has truly been dumbed down into not thinking. If its all about selling and business, why do I so freely give away intellectual property (tools) that are a key to business? Unfortunately, safety is the sector for the sell of snake oil and they buy heaps of it rather than focus on learning and thinking. Amazing what Cert 4 RPL in WHS can get you these days.

    • Mark D

      In all fairness to the cynics, I am not sure if you have given away any tools in their entirety. You have given us samplers. If you give out a picture-graph that has does not have an accompanying instructions, instructions that make sense of the picture-graph, then you have given ambiguity, for which one then needs to pursue to get further clarity. First chapters of books, sample lollies, free gifts, first hour free consultations, I will give you my precious time free, give me your name and I will send you something etc, are all text book marketing strategies.
      And again your last sentence is putting those down that do not have higher education. If the law allows for RPL, then it is those professionals who allowed for it…blame them for the strange people with closed minds. You are not always right Rob…

      • I just don’t get why people are so closed minded and transfixed on the perception that this is all about selling something and so what if Rob did make reference to his tools and experience – it is totally relevant, supports what he is saying and gives us confidence that what he says is legit and applicable. In this case, what have the closed minded cynics achieved apart from broadened the gap between the spud heads and the potato heads?

        • Rob Long

          I love it when others who don’t know you feel free to attribute and project moral characteristics on others as if they understand motive and can read my intentions. Their judgment says much more about how they see the world than it does about me. It must feel great to stand in judgment over someone you don’t know and cast judgment of unethical conduct. Sharing knowledge and expertise is also a motive, facilitating learning is also a motive, helping is also a motive, and I have been doing those things all my life without need for some cynic telling me what my moral intention is.

          • Rob L

            Then tell us more about yourself then Dr. Rob to give measure back to the supposed cynics.

            Am super curious about Beaconsfield. What was your role in Beaconsfield for the 3 years prior to the mine collapse? Paid or unpaid? Did you work at the mine or somewhere else? Your website has been authored to draw attention to how you were a Manager in the response centre there. Did you see that accident coming?

            What has been your actual on-the-ground, risking your own skin and bone experience with high risk work?

            What was the topic of your doctorate thesis? Was it related to safety? Does the thesis still hold?

            For how long, have you been a registered psychologist and what is the extent of your clinical experience?

            All the acronyms after your name, listed on your website – what do they mean. Which ones require assessment/qualifications? Which ones require paid or unpaid membership?

            These are not loaded, suspicious questions. Just keen to appreciate you for your experience that extends beyond the electronic page. Post your credentials openly and publicly. Let there be no question.

          • Rob Long

            There is plenty, perhaps too much of me out in the public domain and I have invited you previously to take your agenda off line.

  • Didn’t take our friends on LinkedIn long to work it our Rob: “At base, it appears to be a sales aid for his business” – gotta love a cynic – but what a shame to miss out on learning something really useful…….

    • Rob long

      BTW, it wouldn’t matter what I did, it would be ego, business or some projected motive. The last thing it could possibly be would be helping others learn. So, what is LinkedIn about? Amazing what these people say when they don’t know you indeed, says a great deal about themselves.

      • yeah the whole premise of linkedin is networking and self promotion. Was a great place to share ideas and debate but all the great contributors have disappeared – lots of leaches, vultures and snipers remain!

        • Rob Long

          I got off LinkedIn over a year ago along with a number of colleagues, when it became clear that those asking questions didn’t want to learn and those claim to want learning spent all their time telling me how stupid I was and what I didn’t know. So what could have been a medium for learning has been lost to simplistic populism and self appointed noise merchants of our age. Instead, we have now a very strong group of orofessiobal people networked through the post grad studies and this is proving to be a great forum for learning, thinking and dialogue about risk and safety.

      • Rob L

        If it weren’t for ego, perhaps, some of the greatest things done by man may yet to have happened.

        Had much experience using this tool to lead folk into risky work environments Dr. Rob?

        Would love to hear a story of how you used this tool to manage a super risky scenario. Have you ever assessed something as safe? Yet then had workers tell you “No way, that ain’t safe”. But you’ve then used your matrix to show them that their perception of the risk was ‘mis-sighted’?

  • Rob Long

    Paul and MJE, thanks for the support. If you contact me offline I can send you a hard copy of the tool/card, its reverse side has a concept map of the thinking tool as well – Unfortunately, like many things many concepts and ideas are not self-explanatory but can still be learned. I remember when I was young studying with a number of professors and academics in history and philosophy and being astounded at their ability to read and think. Whilst they were very helpful none used information graphics or semiotics to assist learning but I find information graphics so helpful, a great method in helping those who want to learn how to learn and think. I am not an expert at all in information graphics but a colleague of mine Craig Ashhurst, currently doing his PhD in Wicked Problems at ANU Canberra, is. Craig delivers in units in my Post Grad Program on things like visual and spacial literacy, such literacies and the ability to think are vital skills for risk assessment.

  • MJE Taylor

    Excellent article- thank you!

  • paul

    Thank you so much I could use alot of this clock…to dig deeper and everything…

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