Tim D'Ath

A Human-Centric Approach to Safety Management

This week on Safety Labs by Slice: Tim D'Ath. Tim shares his extensive experience of bringing a human-centric approach to high-compliance industries. He helps safety professionals understand the key principles of implementing progressive safety programs and psychosocial wellbeing strategies. Tim provides practical guidance on how to maximize the available expertise within the workforce to co-design safety solutions. Despite open contempt for various mainstream approaches (including IFRs, BBS and Zero Harm), he provides plenty of reasons to be cheerful about the future of safety.

In This Episode

In this episode, Mary Conquest speaks with Tim D'Ath, an experienced Head of Safety & cultural transformation leader of high-performing teams in both corporate and high-risk environments. He specializes in the psychology of safety and explains to HSE professionals how they can bring a more human-centric approach to safety management.

Regulations and humanity often seem at odds, and this friction is probably most apparent in high-compliance industries - where Tim has had great success implementing progressive safety programs and psychosocial wellbeing strategies.

He shares his 4 principles of designing safety management systems and explains that compliance is a byproduct of getting things right. A key theme is workforce engagement, and he provides practical tips on how safety professionals can crowdsource and co-design solutions that interpret regulations into relatable formats for the worker.

Tim reflects on current mainstream approaches to safety and voices his frustration at various elements, including imposing solutions on workers, lag indicator metrics, BBS programs, and Zero Harm initiatives. However, this is an uplifting interview with plenty of advice for disillusioned safety practitioners and many reasons to be optimistic about the future of safety.


- [Mary] Hi there. Welcome to "Safety Labs by Slice." Regulations and humanity often seem at odds, which is, well, odd because safety regulations are intended to protect humans. This friction is probably most apparent in highly regulated high-compliance industries. Our guest today works in such industries and is dedicated to bringing human-centered safety practices into these highly regulated environments.

Tim D'Ath has worked in high-risk industries such as offshore oil and aviation for over 20 years. His extensive experience includes implementing progressive safety programs and psychosocial well-being strategies. Tim has developed health and safety governance frameworks across complex matrix structures. He specializes in applying humanistic safety approaches in highly regulated work environments.

Tim's professional interests include the psychology of safety, and his personal interests include surfing Australia's South Coast. Tim joins us from Melbourne. Welcome.

- [Tim] Thanks, Mary. Nice to be here.

- I'd like to start by asking a bit about high-compliance industries to set the stage for listeners who don't have any experience in that kind of environment. So tell me a little about the regulatory environment of some of the industries that you've worked in. Are there multiple layers of regulations or generally global standards?

- Yeah, sure. So, perhaps working in the aviation industry is a good place to start. I was the head of safety at Melbourne and Launceston Airports for some time. And aerodrome management is a highly regulated industry. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority is the regulator, and they provide standards for aerodrome facilities and operational procedures and safety management, including really, really prescriptive standards for aerodromes.

Then we have the state OHNS regulator, which is WorkSafe Victoria. So, essentially we are responding to two regulators from a safety perspective. So there's a really, really large register of safety obligations, which can be tricky.

- So you talked about the prescriptiveness. So what level of granularity are we talking about? So how prescriptive are, say, the strictest regulations that you've worked with?

- I'd say across maritime and aviation, I think aviation is probably the most prescriptive in my experience. There's really, really detailed standards for certified aerodromes. And these are provided, you know, within the civil aviation regulations. So that's our rule book, if you like, for aerodrome management. And it blends operational requirements and safety requirements as well.

Goes into quite a lot of detail in terms of what is required under a safety management system for an aerodrome. And then also, like I said, we've got that state regulator who have their own set of requirements for, you know, safety management. And so trying to blend the two can be quite tricky at times. And not to mention then the next step, which is, of course, implementing it and getting that, you know, employee buy-in at the worker level.

- So you said civil, that's a national level or an international level?

- That's a national level for Australia, Civil Aviation Safety Authority. There's also ICAO, which is the international governing body for aviation.

- Okay. I figured there must be some international governing body because it's such an international industry. Yes. So, you mentioned that's the first step, and then there's the next step. So compliance, I think, is an interesting term because it can conjure images of militaristic discipline or obedience.

But when we chatted before, you said that compliance is a byproduct of getting things right. So can you tell me a little more about that view?

- Yeah, sure. So, basically, when I sort of approach safety management wherever I'm working up, I try to do it through some four principles. So I try to understand the people make, safety as simple as it can be, involve end users in the design of the safety programs and crowdsource for safety. So within that, compliance is never a focus of mind.

I view compliance as a byproduct of the efforts that we put into those four principles. So instead of making compliance, the goal itself, if we get our safety climate right, and if we get our buy-in correct, we're understanding our people, we're simplifying safety, then the compliance levels I find are going to improve over time.

- So when we spoke, you mentioned that designing a safety system and then attempting to motivate workers to comply with it isn't the best approach. So can you explain a bit more about why that is and what you suggest instead?

- Yeah, sure. So the regulations in the legislation, it's already really, really prescriptive. So they don't need to be layered with an even more prescriptive set of organizational safety procedures and safety clutter. I think the challenge for safety professionals, this is the way I approach it, is to interpret the regulations and the standards into a format that's relatable for the worker. So, using the language that they understand and involving them as many of them as possible, you know, in that interpretation exercise.

You know, and this goes into crowdsourcing for safety solutions as well if we employ people within the workforce as experts in what they do. So when we approach challenges in safety as well, ask the experts the questions, we're going to get expert solutions. So we really want to involve them in designing the safety programs. So it's all about these for me, these incremental steps of involving the workforce, understanding them, involving them, clearing the way, decluttering safety, and then helping them interpret those safety requirements in language that they're going to understand in the workforce.

- And how do you know...maybe it's just a gut feeling or maybe there are some particular signs you look for, but how do you know when you're being successful?

- When I crowdsource, I like to spend a lot of time out in the field talking to the workforce and understanding what makes them click. So I don't subscribe to a lot of the audits and the safety inspection checklists and those sort of processes. I think there's much more value just having conversations with the workforce, understanding what they're doing, how they're doing it, what the blockers are, what the challenges are, and asking some open-ended questions.

Like, if you had $100,000 here to invest into a safety solution to make work easier for you, how would you spend it? So I find that those sort of conversations bring greater insights than using audits and inspections alone. And it's a good barometer to measure how engaged the workforce is, or those people you're talking to are when you're having those conversations.

- One example of trying to interpret, you know, this highly descriptive legislation into a format that is digestible, if you like, for the workforce and involves them, is to sort of change a view from responding to the regulations with a highly prescriptive safety management system, instead developing a safety management standard. So this is something I led at when I was at Melbourne Airport.

So this was basically a set of standards capturing the safety outcomes that the business wanted to achieve in some way or another. It was like a light on the hill, if you like, a beacon on the hill. And how different areas of the business achieve, you know, those set of standards is really up to them. So what we did was we identified different groups, four or five, you know, groups around the business, and we worked with them to develop their own group-level safety plans because the entirety of the legislations or the regulations, all the codes as well, you know, probably won't apply to everyone.

So instead of, you know, the end result being this highly prescriptive safety management system that everyone must be trained in and read to, the groups will have their group-level safety documents that just pick out the relevant pieces of the regulations that apply to them, and then we involve them in the development of workshopping how that group-level safety document looks and how it's rolled out.

And in my experience, it's a really effective way to reduce safety clutter, to activate the workforce, and also to directly involve them in how they're going to achieve the regulations. So yeah, I find that a really, really successful approach.

- I imagine that you don't just set things up as it were, set the standard, do this. I imagine that you don't do this work just once for a number of reasons, but one of them I wanted to ask about is do the regulations change very often, or are they moving targets, or are they fairly stable?

- They're fairly stable. There are some small changes, but they're fairly stable. So this approach moving away from a highly prescriptive safety management system for the whole workforce and more towards group-level safety documents. At the airport, we involved the regulator in these conversations up front, and said, hey, here's what we're thinking of doing, and here's the reasons why.

Here's the benefits that we see one of those bank compliance levels improving once they're rolled out. And so engaging the regulator early, both regulators, that was CASA, the Civil Aviation Sector Authority, and WorkSafe, bringing them together, quite often they don't play well together. So having conversations with them early and managing their expectations really allowed us to, I guess, pioneer this way of safety management in aerodromes.

And once we rolled this approach out, CASA, the aviation regulator, they were really complimentary of it and they endorsed it. And they also, you know, said that they were going to promote this model to other major international airports around Australia, which is really, really great.

- I imagine then that your advice to someone who's looking at changing their approach to this sort of thing...a safety professional would be to talk to the regulators, which I also kind of guess is not always the default position of safety managers.

- Yeah. Absolutely. And I learned this the hard way as well, but I think that with any safety program or any safety initiative, in my experience, at least, if I identify who the key stakeholders are, who those people or stakeholders that I really, really need to engage with and help, you know, bring them over the line, if I identify them early, then I can have conversations early.

And it just clears the path for a smooth development and implementation of these initiatives. And yes, it can be tricky and sometimes the regulators don't want to meet or want to talk about other things, but I find that it's really, really beneficial to engage early not just regulators, but also, you know, senior management, other stakeholders, other parties who might be affected by these plans too.

- You said you learned it the hard way. I'm wondering, are there any other surprises? Not necessarily negative ones, but just developments that surprised you as you were going through this process?

- Yeah, I was surprised at how easy it actually is. When I say I learned the hard way is when I was started in my safety career, I put a lot of work in detailed safety management systems and safety procedures, because that's the way I was taught in my training. That's what they teach, at least in Australia. So putting all this effort in these detailed safety procedures and then getting the endorsement or the accreditation once they're in place, that was great.

That was a big tick. But then I would hit a brick wall when I'd go out to the workforce and try to implement it or try to, you know, engage with the workforce at that point. No one likes being told what to do. And I feel like engaging the workforce early as a stakeholder who are just as important, if not more important than the regulator, really activates them, really clears the path for a much smoother rollout, you know, of a safety system.

- So that would be your advice for someone who's starting is find the stakeholders, get them in the room early and often, perhaps.

- Yeah. Absolutely. Understand your people, involve the end users in the design of your safety programs, and then go about crowdsourcing for those safety solutions bringing them together and helping you because safety teams are too small. Every organization that I talk to or I'll work with, the safety team's too lean. It's a common comment that I hear.

The workforce is that logical option. You know, when you're looking for extra arms and legs to do the design work and execute those safety programs, so why not use them? And I find that when we do engage early, invite them in and say, Hey, here's the challenge that we're facing. We've got a highly prescriptive set of regulations here that we need to follow. How are we going to do it?

What are our options? One option is this highly prescriptive safety management system. Another option is, yes, we still need a safety management system, but are we going to get, you know, more benefit if we have these reduced group-level safety documents that only pick out the specific things to different areas of the business? And that makes the response to the regulations scalable by business unit size, by the risk profile of that area of the business, by location.

So there are some geographical, you know, locations, some businesses at different locations across the country, across the state. So I really find that involving end users, engaging the regulator, and crowdsourcing for safety solutions is just a great recipe.

- So when you wrote the forward for Clive Lloyd's 2021 book, "Next Generation Safety Leadership," you started with a statement, "Safety as an industry is in crisis." And you've also described yourself as a frustrated safety professional. So at the time, at least, what is it that was frustrating you about safety?

- Yeah, sure. So when I wrote that forward, I was a frustrated safety professional. I still am sometimes, but it's really about these traditional approaches to safety that so many safety managers or safety professionals are clinging to. So, these paternalistic approaches that really reinforce this parent-child relationship between a safety team and the workforce.

And those sort of approaches really undermine a lot of the great work that's happening in safety circles, you know, with progressive safety leaders who are really trying to understand the people more so than trying to impose safety processes or procedures on the workforce with little or no consultation. So when I was frustrated or when I become frustrated, I often go back to this question that I used to ask myself to bring me out of this mode, you know, which is stop trying to look scientific and get on with the job of understanding your people.

I feel like so many organizations when it comes to safety are so preoccupied with these endless reports on safety metrics and measuring the lag indicators that don't really tell us a lot. They forget to identify, you know, with their people and really recognize that the people hold the solutions.

We hire experts to do expert work, and we shouldn't be developing safety programs on behalf of them, and then trying to implement them in the field without their involvement. It just doesn't work. And it really undermines what I think the safety profession is about, which is engaging with people, helping them identify solutions, and then being a conduit between them and senior management.

- You said clinging to sort of paternalistic views. And I'm curious, why do you think some organizations or some safety professionals do clinging to those older views? Do you think there's something inherent in them, or do you think it's just that they haven't been exposed to other ideas? Have you had any discussions about that?

- Yeah, I've had quite a lot of discussions. I think a part of it is that simply because this is what everyone else does. So one of the most frustrating measures that I'm sure you hear from a lot of your guests is injury frequency rates and using those as measures of safety. And, you know, I like to use the analogy of health. You know, the absence of illness doesn't indicate the presence of health.

And I think the same can be said in safety, that the absence of injury doesn't indicate the presence of safety. But the fact that 90% of organizations, if not more, use injury frequency rates as a measure of safety, makes it really, really difficult for those organizations who want to break that mold, drop that measure, and lean into more human-centric measures.

It's a hard thing...big leap for boards and execs to make. So that's definitely one barrier, I think, because so many others use these sort of measures. It's really tricky for the minority to move away from them. I think another one...I'll use the example of zero harm. I'm sure that that comes up as well quite a lot.

But with these zero-harm goals, my view of it is that if goals are unrealistic, but they can be achieved by cheating, then people will cheat. So the notion of zero harm's absurd. People are fallible. And that number of days without an injury as it increases, it becomes harder and harder for people to report.

No one wants to break that streak. Meanwhile, you know, as the organization sort of tick off these 30 days, 60 days, 90 days without injury, with their barbecues and their lunches and other activities, you know, this false sense of safety paired with the lost opportunities to learn from the minor unreported incidents, you know, that increases the risk of injury. So there's this paradox there around zero harm and increasing risk of injury.

There's been quite a few studies that have actually confirmed this as well. So I think when using those two examples, outdated frequency rate lag indicators with these other popular goals around zero harm, it makes it really, really difficult for organizations wanting to break the mold.

- Have your views changed much, or in what ways have they changed maybe since you wrote that forward and expressed your frustration?

- Well, I've been more selective in terms of the organizations I work for. So I really look for, you know, organizations who are genuinely wanting to effect change and do it in a way that I can bring the psychology of safety approaching. So my last two employers, I was very selective with them and upfront sharing my approach to safety.

You know, embracing that human contribution...sorry, embracing the human condition and its contribution to safety. So for me personally, it's been about being very selective with my employer, and also trying to engage with broader safety networks to communicate my points of view and hopefully help some others, you know, break those shackles and move into a more proactive approach to safety.

- You talk about embracing the human condition. So I wanted to ask, what specifically do you think needs to change in the safety profession's relationship with failure or human error?

- Yeah, sure. So I feel like we need to revisit the relationship that we have with failure or mistakes. I've never met anyone who doesn't make mistakes. I make mistakes every day, all the time. As a dad, as a husband, as a friend, as a brother, I've made mistakes in this podcast already. I'm pretty hard on myself [inaudible]. But, you know, psychological safety depends on how we respond to mistakes.

We need to, first of all, acknowledge that humans are fallible and we make mistakes, and that's okay. That's perfectly fine. The challenge is then to I guess integrate that into our safety management systems and procedures. So how we respond to mistakes really matters. Intelligent failure is another concept that I'm a big fan of which is, you know, essentially identifying when something isn't working early on and getting out and having the humility to put your hand up and say, you know what?

We tried something that came from a good place, it didn't work. That's okay. Let's try a different approach.

- Intelligent failure. I haven't heard that phrase before, but it sounds a little bit like humility in a sense, or that that's part of it. Yeah. And maybe putting the team ahead of one's own ego. Sometimes it's hard to admit mistakes.

- Well, it's really hard. And I know that there's a lot of great work happening around the place. You know, psychological safety's really a term that's, you know, bounced back, you know, through the pandemic and it is remaining a high conversation point at the moment. But humility, psychological safety, that intelligent failure, they all interact together. And as leaders, we need to obviously role model that intelligent failure and role model what it looks like to admit or acknowledge your mistakes in front of others and role model that that's perfectly okay.

It's the only way we're going to learn.

- Yeah. People are paying attention to how we respond to error. So I'm going to kick the hornet's nest maybe a little bit and ask you, what's your view on behavior-based safety models?

- Sure. No worries. Well, that's fine. So, I don't subscribe to behavioral-based safety models. I think that they're shortsighted. In its theory, it's shortsighted, I think. I can't draw in this podcast, but when people approach situations at work in a safety context, obviously, you know, it generates a thought about that situation, the thought elicits a feeling or an emotion, if you like.

And that that develops an attitude. So then it's our attitudes that drive our behaviors and our behaviors give us our results. What I think behavioral-based safety does is it focuses on the bottom half of that process. So it identifies behaviors and it tries to use positive or negative reinforces to correct or maintain those behaviors to give management the results that they want.

But what it overlooks is the attitudes that people are bringing to work or even just in that moment. So it does not appreciate or factor in their motivation. It doesn't factor in, you know, their stress levels at the times, their attitudes, their belief systems, all those sort of things. So I feel like behavioral-based safety is half of the equation.

And that any benefits from behavioral-based safety programs, in my view, are short-lived. As soon as that supervisor or manager or safety member who's performing a behavior-based safety observation turns their back and leaves, the behavior of the worker returns to the manner that it was before the observation commenced.

So it's really about getting into the heads of your workforce, understanding what drives them, what motivates them, what the challenges are, and then really trying to influence at that deeper level, rather than this surface-level approach of behavioral-based safety.

- And it's not like looking into a crystal ball either if you just ask them, right?

- No, absolutely. No.

- Going back to what you were talking about involving them, and that sort of thing. I'll touch briefly on the question of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. If you can just describe, you know, what those are and how they relate to behavior-based models, as opposed to the kind of work that you do.

- Yeah, sure. So, intrinsic motivation, which is, you know, obviously that motivation deep within people, that self-motivation. That's long-lasting I find. It's really, really powerful. And you can only identify what intrinsically motivates someone by speaking with them in depth about who they are, what they're about, what they value.

And then external motivation, which is the reward systems, the positive and negative reinforcement which comes with behavior-based safety programs. Those external motivators are quite often, you know, short lasting. And there's been numerous studies as well that confirms that if someone is intrinsically motivated about something and then an external motivator is used on them or with them, then that intrinsic motivation erodes.

So it actually can have a negative effect on them. I think self-efficacy also comes into the conversation at this point as well. So, people with high self-efficacy beliefs, you know, they have been identified to engage in more difficult tasks, identify more ambitious goals, show greater effort and persistence, elicit more positive emotions in the workplace, cope better with stress, and the list goes on.

So I think an alternative to behavioral-based safety approaches is social cognitive approaches to motivation and people. I think that there's much more benefit in really understanding who your people are, how they work, how they're motivated, and then really helping them engage with safety in a way that's unique to them.

And it takes work and is harder because you can't use one brush to stroke across the whole workforce. But I think people recognize pretty quickly where you're coming from and that your approach is authentic and that they matter, and that builds trust and that goes a long way.

- Along with this is trade-offs. So, you're interested in the psychology of trade-offs. Can you explain what you mean by that in terms of safety?

- Sure. Well, trade-offs....everyone makes trade-offs, obviously, in their life and at work as well. And understanding why people take shortcuts or make those trade-offs in a safety context is really, really important for this sort of people-based safety approach or this psychology of safety approach. So production and safety or operations and safety, they're always in this sort of tension with each other.

And I think one of the mistakes that a lot of safety professionals fall into is that it's safety versus production or safety versus operation. And I don't believe that that's the case. I think that safety and production don't live on opposite sides of the coin. You know, they're one of the other.

So, a job well done or a good quality job is a job that's done safely as well. So I think that talking to the workforce, having those conversations about what the challenges are they're facing when they're under constraints, be it production constraints, schedule constraints, cost constraints, what are the trade-offs that they make? And are any of those trade-offs safety-related?

And if so, unpack them with the workforce. So engage with them, solve with them, not for them, because I think that's the role of the safety team is to help people make good decisions that consider safety. And if we're turning a blind eye to the safety trade-offs that our staff and our workforce are making, then we're not going to get too far.

We're certainly not going to help them make their work easier.

- I think there would be a strong link too between trade-offs and different kinds of motivation. Like, some trade-offs would be done in order to meet someone else's goals, production, you mentioned. There must be some trade-offs where people are doing it because the choice that they're making is aligning more with what they're motivated to do, which is, I don't know whether if their motivation in that moment is safety or maybe it is production, but do you see any links there?

- Yeah. Absolutely. So, you know, like I said, most operational work, even when it's performed with non-safety goals, it still has a bearing on the likelihood of an accident. And I think when we talk about motivational understanding motivation, it's about really understanding what motivates the workers to do good quality work and what motivates them to follow safety procedures or not.

The question ultimately, I think, is what's in it for them. So this sounds pretty bleak, but I think that people don't do anything unless there's something in it for them. And I think it's important to really lean into that, or at least have a conversation about it and try to understand, you know, what's in it for the workforce? We've got these safety procedures, we've got well-intended safety programs that are designed or developed to protect the workforce.

But ask yourself, what's in it for them? What's going to motivate them to take this on, or what about this program is going to demotivate them? I think that's really, really important. And people's ability to sort of envisage the future or the end state of a work task is going to bring forward a motivation and direct their own behavior. So I think that motivation and that whole safety versus production conversation is...I think, motivation plays a big part of it.

- So I'm sure, and in fact, you said as much that you meet other frustrated safety professionals in your work or in your networks. What do you suggest to them? Like, I guess if you come across someone who's maybe trying to make these changes and is frustrated or just frustrated with the state of the industry as a whole, do you have any advice that you offer?

- Yeah. I'd say that one of the first things I sort of ask other safety professionals is, how do you workers interact with your safety management system or your safety procedures? And how does the safety management system interact with them, or does it? Because a lot of safety procedures or safety management systems are so rigid and inflexible that there's little or no interaction with the workforce, and there's no room to move.

It's very black and white. And that doesn't help. It doesn't help an organization, it doesn't help the people. So I think the first step is to identify how your staff are interacting with your systems, and then looking at your systems and asking, okay, can we make these a little more flexible? Can we adapt these processes to task variability? Because if not, then there's not much help.

So I think that's a starting point, but then I'd also come back to just these four steps that I follow, which is in order, you know, understand your people, make safety as simple as it can be, involve the end users in the design of the programs, and then crowdsource those safety solutions. I find that those four approaches, you know, really help generate some really good conversations and develop better programs.

And then as a byproduct, compliance is miraculously increased.

- Would you advise them to...I guess when you step into a new role in a new organization, if there's a lot to change, where would you get them to start? And what I mean here is, you know, you've just gone through your basic steps overall, kind of global-looking, but you know, the first month, let's say, what do you think they should be doing, looking for?

- Yeah, sure. I think that's about putting the work boots on and getting out there in the field. So understanding your people's all about talking with them, getting out there. I've done some listening tours, which is a great way to do it. And when I talk about listening tours, I'm talking about going out into the workforce and gathering may be no more than, you know, four or five people at a time and having conversations about them...sorry, with them about safety.

So what do they see as the challenges? What have been blockages in the past? What doesn't work for them? And what could a safety team do to sort of help them overcome those challenges? That's a good approach. Also, you know, work insights, they're a great tool and a lot of progressive safety teams are using them these days.

So conducting these work insights, you know, with the workforce using similar questions. Well, first of all, it shows the people that you care and that this is a different approach. You're not leading with compliance. And doing this for a month, if you like, your first month, like you said, you're going to learn so much more from the people in the field than you are going to learn from, you know, the views of management or the corporate cohort of the organization.

They're just as important, but I think it starts with the people in the workforce.

- What excites you most right now about the safety profession and its future or its potential?

- I think that there's...I can feel a movement and I can feel a shift. There's lots and lots of chatter, you know, within podcasts, within LinkedIn, within safety circles around, you know, safety I and safety II, or safety differently, or HOP, and all these other models which have some really great concepts in them.

And I think that's really a lot of safety professionals are seeing the value in that and trying really hard to take those principles and bring them into their organizations. I think that's really exciting. There's still a lot of challenges I think once we, you know, as safety professionals bring some of those principles into organizations and present them to our executives and to our boards that there's challenges there.

It's a big change. It is a big shift, but I think that it's exciting that there's been a handful of organizations, at least in Australia that I look to who have done this really, really well. And they've done it in a way that they've shown that by adopting these progressive approaches to safety, they're not discounting the legislative requirements or, you know, the state-based regulators requirements for the site safety II.

We can achieve both. So I think that's really, really cool.

- Yeah. I mean, when I started, I talked about, you know, some people seeing those two things at odds, but yeah, I mean this approach brings them together. And I think, I may be biased because I do interview a lot of Australians, but I think a lot of new thinking and, yeah, new ideas and new concepts are coming out of Australia, so you're well-placed from my perspective.

- Yeah. Well, I think that's great to hear because I mean, I see it as well, but I'm probably biased because obviously I'm a proud Australian as well and I like to think that we've got some pioneers in Australia. I just look to some of the recent guests you've had on your podcast as well. Dave Provan and Brent Sutton and Clive Lloyd, like, they're some heavy hitters. And those three, you know, Australians/New Zealand, we could probably claim Brent.

But it's really encouraging to see these guys sort of out there, you know, pioneering safety, offering programs, and the uptake for their programs is really, really strong in Australia. So I think we're heading in a really, really good direction. So, that's really exciting for me.

- And not just in Australia, actually, Josh Bryant and Brent Sutton, two people that I've interviewed are very close to where I live. They're in Vancouver right now giving talks on learning teams, teaching people how to work with those.

- So that's great. Isn't it?

- So I have a few questions that I ask my guests at the end of the podcast. And the first one is, I'm not sure if you went through sort of a formal safety program kind of in school and then went into the workforce, I think that you started in the workforce and then shifted more towards safety. But if you were to design soft skill training, let's call it, for tomorrow's safety professionals, what skill do you think is the most important for them to master?

- Yeah, that's a great question. And you're right, I did start what we call blue-collar work here in Australia. I started on the tools, you know, in fly and fly out, heavy civil environments, and then offshore oil rigs. So that really benefited me being on the other side of the conversation, if you like, and then coming across to safety.

I think that the biggest bang for your buck in terms of soft skills, I think, is leaning into the psychology of safety. I don't think this is taught enough. I think this should be mandatory criteria in, you know, safety programs in degrees and in diplomas and even at the certificate level as well because I think that we're working with people here, we're trying to help motivate, we're trying to understand them.

And using the psychology of safety, you know, as a tool for understanding what makes our people tick is so beneficial. And I just don't think that it's widely recognized and there's so much in there, there's so many little nuggets for safety professionals in there. I just think that the psychology of safety's a really utilized approach.

- If you could go back in time to the beginning of the safety portion of your career, what piece of advice might you give yourself?

- I would tell myself to take my time. So straight out of training, feeling very gun high want to change the world, make a difference. And that's fantastic. I would tell myself, take your time. Get to identify the people in the organization that you need to help deliver these safety programs. Get to know your people, your workforce.

Take the time to go out there and talk to them and understand the challenges they're facing. And then you're going to build this group of allies around you. And everything that you do in the context of safety, you're going to have this pool of resources to draw from. And that's so much more valuable and successful, I think, than trying to go it alone with the safety team and a management team and trying to impose the safety programs and initiatives on the workforce.

So I think, take your time, get to know your people, and build that trust.

- Okay. So you mentioned the psychology of safety. How can our listeners learn more about that or really any other topic that we spoke about today? Are there books or websites or projects that you would direct them to?

- Yeah, sure. So when I talk about the psychology of safety, it's like social psychology, personality psychology, and understanding human cognition. So the way that we think, the way that we, you know, pay attention to things, language, learning, memory perception, all these sort of themes are really, really valuable in the context of safety. And I know Clive Lloyd, he's got a number one bestseller, "Next Generation Safety Leadership," and Clive's approach as a clinical psychologist for 20 ideas.

He brings this psychology of safety into the conversation. And Clive was an early mentor of mine. So he's got that book, "Next Generation Safety Leadership: From Compliance to Care." It's a short book. It's a fantastic read. It's in very relatable language, so it's not academic language, and it's almost a how-to book in terms of how we can take this approach and implement it in the workforce.

So, I could not recommend that book highly off.

- Okay. And where can our listeners find you on the web if they want to reach out?

- You'll find me on LinkedIn. I'm not very prolific in terms of, you know, public exposure. I'm not doing any keynote talks or out there, you know, consulting. So I stay in my lane in a sense. I'm often hunting the waves trying to prioritize me time. But yeah, they can find me on LinkedIn and I'm more than happy to speak to anyone about any of this stuff.

So yeah, just send me a note and I'll do my best to reply.

- So try the waves first, and if that doesn't work, try LinkedIn on the web.

- Yep. So surfing's definitely the priority. So I'll move whatever meetings I can if there's waves.

- Well, that's our show for today. Thank you for listening. And thank you, Tim, for joining me.

- It's great to be here. Thank you.

- As always, I'd like to give a shout-out to the "Safety Labs by Slice" team who find our fantastic guests and get our shows looking and sounding their best. That's all for today. Bye for now.

Tim D'Ath

Head of Safety | Psychology of Safety and Wellbeing | Mental Fitness

Tim could not recommend Clive Lloyd’s best-selling book highly enough: Next Generation Safety Leadership: From Compliance to Care