Daniel Hummerdal is a world-leading health and safety innovator with deep experience in finding new and more functional ways to improve safety. A founder of Safety Differently, Daniel begun his career in aviation, before training to become an organisational psychologist. He has since worked as a consultant in high risk industries in France and Australia. His goal is to facilitate the development of better solutions in which people’s potential is engaged and realised.
We will be featuring Daniel’s articles over the next four weeks.
A recent visit to a nearby office had me sighing as I went through the visitor induction. While it is a relatively quick exercise on an iPad, and relatively user friendly process even, the critical part of the induction – the part where I’m supposed to learn something about the environment I was about to enter – was a couple of window panes of plain text. As I suspect most people do, I quickly scrolled to the bottom of the page hoping to find a “read and understood’ box to tick, so I could get my visitor sticker printed and get on with the meeting I was about to have. Which I did.
I can understand that organisations have a need to ensure that visitors to their facilities have been at least exposed to relevant instructions. And I even appreciate the technical solution they have put in place to deliver this. However, what seems to have been forgotten or marginalised in this setup is the consideration of how the solution will feed into people’s wants or needs. Is there a human problem that the function is going to solve? Or is it simply a solution that in the process of establishing and justifying itself creates a problem?
Every design, tool, product or service need to accommodate a wide range of needs and conditions for it to be successful. Too often, the very basic needs of the humans that will interact with an artifact are overlooked. Instead, the needs of organisations take precedence, or the attractiveness of a technical solution somehow seduce us into forgetting what is the most important aspect.
When we design practices that will involve human users, we should start with the desirability aspect and first develop processes, practices and tools that deliver value for humans that will interact with it. Second, we can incorporate questions of feasibility (how can we deliver this solution?) and/or about viability (how can this fit the organisational needs/constraints?)
The issue is of course not limited to visitor inductions. The field of health and safety has many examples of how the importance of organisational viability/needs has come at the cost of human desirability:
Requesting workers to read and sign on a 20+ pages JSEA before entering and working in an area
The communication of incident rates to employees
The use of Take 5 or START cards
The good news is of course that all these are great opportunities for innovation, to think anew and to act anew. They are low hanging fruit for health and safety innovators. But in case one would want something else, a good starting point could be to ask the end users: What is the most stupid thing we ask you to do in the name of health and safety?
Article orginally published on Owhiro.
What is Owhiro?
Owhiro explores the relationship between the potential of humans, and their work. It looks at what is currently going on in workplaces, ventures into what could be going on, and discusses methods for evolving work practices so that more of people’s potential is realised at work.