Safety Differently in Action

 In Tip of the Week








The following is taken from a blog written by Simon Brown and details how he applied the principals of Safety Differently at the London Luton Airport. With his permission, we are sharing how Safety Differently made a difference at the airport. The following are some excerpts.  Here is a link to the full blog: Safety Differently: Luton Airport.


It was 2016 when the business first bottomed out at zero for RIDDOR’s (reporting of injuries) and LTI’s, when another Senior Manager commented that it was ‘pipe and slippers’ time, as we’d cracked it and there was nothing left to do! I felt like I was hardly getting started, but I knew deep down (due to my high level athletics career) that there must be something out there that could still take us further. I constantly asked myself the question ‘are we really safe?’ and does the absence of accidents really mean we are ultimately safe? I felt an aura of inactivity for learning as numbers were so low.


This was further intensified when I saw Albert Einstein’s quote on insanity: ‘doing something over and over again and expecting different results’. I started challenging myself and my beliefs along with speaking to a wide variety of people within the industry which only intensified my craving for another method or focus. One day I heard REM – Losing My Religion on the radio and thought ‘that’s me with safety’.  It was just after this point that I met with some truly inspirational individuals, first Daniel Hummerdal, then John Green and finally Sidney Dekker.


It was after a masterclass and plenty of discussions with Daniel that I knew I was going to try my interpretation of safety differently, but that all so popular question was present – Where do you start? Here goes……..


I started the roll out in our Cargo Centre by presenting on the broad principles of safety differently which progressed on to appreciative investigations and then going out and doing some with the team. In our first batch, we uncovered some great finds with operatives being put at risk and not working to the agreed safe systems as they said it was not possible to do so. This particular scenario was the transportation of coffins in a confined trailer. The operative would need to climb in beside and use finger tips to move the coffin so that the other operatives could manoeuvre the coffin out at the other end. The outcome of this is a redesigned trailer (by the operatives) which is totally fit for purpose. The Cargo staff said that the only way historically that this would have been resolved, would have been if there was an accident or incident, and this would have probably resulted in somebody being disciplined. From this point the Cargo staff were very enthusiastic when seeing the benefits of proactively looking at their tasks, most importantly with their input as the expert.


Another interesting find was when a work as imagined vs work as done review was undertaken. This task involved the decanting of large cargo pallets to split the loads and reallocate to other loads. This involves the use of a lowering work platform. We were about ten minutes in when one of the operatives asked if we could stop. I asked why and he said ‘we don’t even do it like this’. I asked why and he said they do it off the floor as there is a fall from height risk on the platform which cannot be guarded without affecting the operation of the platform. We talked through the actual ‘work as done’ and agreed that this approach had different risks but no higher than the work as imagined way. A new safe system of work was developed and implemented only for a different team to say they preferred the original method. I then made the decision to empower the team to undertake the task in either of the agreed methods as they are the expert and are competent enough to choose how they undertake that task. This was our first dual system task at the airport which is working very well.


Simon shared many other positive outcomes from his application of Safety Differently.  Please follow the link and enjoy reading the full blog.  In case you missed it, here is the link again:

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