March 2018

Mike Sarten

I didn’t think that you could teach an old dog new tricks. Well you can!

I found the GDPP OSH experience enlightening and a bit life-changing. I have further developed my passion for health and safety and learnt a heap along the way. It has help me develop further skills to be used in my workplace and allowed me to implement some new ideas. It has also opened my eyes to a new way to approach an investigation and the possible causes other than the operator and the organisational influences.

It was funny, it wasn’t until the end of my final presentation in Auckland that all the pieces fell into place, I didn’t understand why anyone would want to know in essay form about me - but that first essay was to see at the end how much I had grown during the project, and man did I grow.

My project was on the Psychology of Accidents and Incidents, The Examination of Error. What a can of worms I opened. I started by reading James Reason’s books. This led me to Sidney Dekker and on to people like Eric Hollenagal and Wayne Lee. All of these learned men opened my eyes to so many different angles and information, it was hard to stop the reading and get on with the writing.

I finished up back in ancient Roman times, and in the 1600s with Blaise Pascal (his wager in his writing Penness is very interesting); then I read blogs and published papers from many other writers.

I settled on the BPC Theory to deal with the cognitive side of how we make decisions and then tied this through others like Robert Mertons and Eric Rasmussen and James Reason into the Emotive side of our decisions looking at error prone people or people who commit violations.

Robert Mertons in his writing “the Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action” is a great read and his take on 'chance' is well worth any health and safety practitioner acknowledging.

Sidney Dekker showed me two things. The first was “Work as Imagined and Work as Done”, and the second that people don’t get out of bed and come to work to do a bad job, (only terrorists do that), in general people come to work to work hard.

One of my work initiatives that fell out of Sidney Dekker’s “work as imagined and work as done” was to get out there with the boys and girls on the ground and experience a day in their shoes. We can easily lose sight of what we are asking of the folks at the sharp end, sitting back at the blunt end. It is also a great way to remove some of the stigma around the Health and Safety Manager on a project.

The Capable NZ team that took me through my Diploma were brilliant; my facilitator, Cushla Donnelly, was spot on and during my presentation the assessors made me feel at ease and kept me on track.

This project has inspired me to look further ahead to more study, some of which I will be starting in April.

A thanks to NZISM also for the inspiration through excellent monthly presentations and an easy to use website that was able to guide me to better myself.

For those that haven’t been there yet, give it a go. And for those who have completed the study, you will understand how it changes your thinking.