If imposed health and safety systems worked, we would never have another workplace accident. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Where there are health and safety systems the accident and incident rate is no different to businesses who have not installed a system. Health and safety systems suffer from a large number of disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage is that we are dealing with people. Regrettably, people don’t fit systems. As a result as soon as you have a system, you have to have another system to deal with the people that don’t conform. Is this what you want?

Let’s say you buy a system. What you can do with it? Having spent the money, it must be installed. This is the first problem. When you install systems into a workplace all sorts of barriers are created by the very people you expect to work the system. Every single system I have ever seen violates the basic principles of human behaviour. When you impose a system on people, they react negatively because they do not like being told what to do. Telling people what to do is what we do better than anything else. If you do that you will get resentment. Resentment is very, very expensive. Once the staff are resentful they will find many and varied ways to avoid installing or operating your system.

They will devote all their energy to making sure that your system will not work and they will be successful. This will leave you in a situation where you will strive to get compliance and ultimately fail. In the process, there will be casualties. The rules of human behaviour are quite clear. If you want a method to do things, tell your staff what you want as an outcome. Then you need to go through the process of getting agreement that the outcome is desirable and possible. Once you have got to that stage, you are then in a position to ask your people how they are going to achieve the outcome. What sort of method will work?

They may come up with a very clumsy method. That is not a problem. Let them install their clumsy method with the proviso that they can alter it with reference to you at set intervals. This will enable them to operate it and discover all the reasons why they should be changing it. Explain that the method is not fixed. It is a starting point. Eventually, they will design a very effective method that they will make work regardless of the circumstances. Now this process may be a bit longer than imposing a system, but it works and will continue to work and will continue to be modified to meet the needs of a changing environment.

The rule is simple. If you want a safe working method, ask your staff to design it and implement it. The alternative is to prescribe one. This will lead to huge problems.