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A interesting counter-view of the benefits of Behavioural Based Safety systems is raised here. It’s an aged article and produced by a controversial labour organisation, The Maritime Union of Australia… (c’mon guys, your views have been considered ‘strident’ on occasions in the past…) Nonetheless we think it’s a valid comment and would welcome your own comments and experience, if you have any counter-views too. We should make it clear though, we here at Certainty Software think that management DO remain accountable FULL STOP

For example, there’s been considerable comment blaming the loss of ‘Costa Concordia’ on the Master as a function of a Behavioural Based Safety approach… once again, we take the view that however it gets sliced, the Master may have been the man on the spot, but it’s still management that still remains accountable.

What do you think of the MUA’s views? – let us know…

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Why imageThe next blog in our series on how to develop a Behavioural Based Safety System is ‘How to Focus on the Real Root Cause of Errors’ – We don’t like to make things complicated and think you’ll find this a really easy model to follow. Try it out and do please let us know how you get on?

Determine the Root Cause by asking ‘Why’ five times…

We certainly don’t want to make you sound like your five year old child by constantly asking ‘Why?’ the whole time, but it is a great tool to use to drill down into an issue and find the ‘Root Cause’ of a problem or failure. If you repeatedly ask the question ‘Why?’, just as with an onion, you can strip away the layers of symptoms to allow you to find the root cause of a problem. We recommend asking ‘Why?’ five times, but in truth you may find you need to ask this question more than that or sometimes less, but five times is a good ‘Rule of thumb’. If you do this, you’ll find that the answer to one question will naturally lead you to ask the next and so on.

What are the benefits of asking ‘Why?’ five times?

  • To help identify the root cause of a problem
  • To find if there’s any relationship between the apparent causes of a problem.
  • It’s simple and doesn’t need complicated statistical analysis.

When should we ask the five ‘Why?’s?

  • Whenever an issue involves the ‘human factor’ or the involvement of people, or
  • At any time in the course of operations. It can be done quickly and easily.

How should we ask the five ‘Why?’s

  • Write down the nature of specific problem or issue you’re reviewing. This helps you and your colleagues collectively describe and understand the problem together
  • Ask why the problem arises and then just write down the answer beneath the problem
  • If the answer to ‘Why?’ doesn’t identify the root cause of the problem then ask ‘Why?’ again and write that down, and so on
  • Keep going and asking ‘Why?’ until everyone agrees that the root cause of the problem has been identified.

Here’s an example: Let’s assume that your major client is unhappy because the products that you’ve just delivered don’t meet the agreed specification – you’ve got a major problem and risk losing the client to a competitor if you don’t come up with an answer quickly… Firstly, write down the ‘Problem Statement’: Our customer is upset because they’ve received 10,000 widgets that don’t meet the agreed specification.

1. Why has the customer been shipped defective widgets? – Because we fabricated the widgets to a different specification that that which was agreed.

2. Why did we fabricate the widgets to a different specification than that agreed? – Because the production team took instructions from sales over the telephone and they misunderstood the requirement.

3. Why did sales call the production team instead of following the procedure established in the QA system? – Because the ‘start work’ instruction form requires both the sales director’s and the production director’s written agreement before work can begin. This was going to slow the manufacturing process as the Sales Director was travelling overseas at the time.

4. Why does the form specify that BOTH the Sales and Production Director’s written approval is required? – Because the QA manager specified it when she designed the form

5. Why did the QA manger specify that BOTH approvals were required in WRITING? – Because the same problem has arisen before when Production were told to do something verbally by Sales that had never been approved. The business had previously lost a customer as a result of the specification being communicated improperly.

In this case we have asked ‘Why?’ five times to find out that the apparently urgent requirement for a written signature authority helped to cause a process breakdown. As you can see the final ‘Why?’ leads the team to a statement (a.k.a the ‘root cause’) so that the team can now take action and do something about. In this case it was a matter of ‘more-haste-less-speed’ and it would have been much quicker and less costly to define a secure system that keeps the sales and production directors informed than it is to try to directly solve the apparent problem (a rush order) without proper thought and planning.

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tailorThe next in our series on implementing a Behavioural Based Safety system involves ‘tailoring’ the language, style and branding of the program to your own organisation. It’s can be a great idea to use a standard ‘off-the-shelf’ program that has been proven to work elsewhere – but it MUST be tailored to your own organisation so people understand the relevance of the program in terms of language and content. ‘Tailoring’ in this context refers to the need to ensure that there is the correct amount of planning, control and governance in your program to ensure a fit in your organisation.

‘Tailoring’ doesn’t mean that you omit any of the key elements of the BBS, as each part of the a BBS program is interlinked. We should NOT think of each element as a separate ‘silo’ of activity. Tailoring is about adapting the method to external factors such as corporate standards and project factors such as the scale or scope of the project. It’s important not to overburden the BBS but to ensure that an appropriate level of control can be provided. ‘Tailoring’ therefore is is about thinking how to apply the program and then using it with a lightness of touch.

In principle then, consider as follows:

(a) Adapt the theme of the program and ensure that you capture any corporate policies and standards. Consider Risk, Quality, Strategy and Communications strategies and how your program needs to fit into each of these.

(b) Apply your organisation’s terminology and language. For example, if your program talks of ‘Health and Safety’, yet your organisation talks of ‘Safety, Health and Security’ make sure you use the same terminology to ensure language is standardised and people will understand your program more easily.

(c) Provide templates and materials in support of your program that are branded in line with your corporate branding and imagery.

(d) Adapt the program’s roles and responsibilities so that you make full use of the skills and expertise within your organisation. Make sure that you match individuals’ capabilities and authorities to the tasks they will undertake.

Finally (e), adapt the processes of your program. Of course all processes should be relevant even in simple programs but the degree of formality and administration employed should be compatible with the program plan.

Once you’ve ‘tailored’ your program, get together with the project team and discuss what you’ve developed or just like any form of tailoring, try out your new outfit before you buy!

Simon BeechinorInspection management, Safety data, Safety managementLeave a Comment


It’s great to see that the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) has undertaken its ambitious project of reviewing every guidance document in their extensive library, ensuring all are fully up-to-date. Work on the project, which started in January 2016, will be completed in the first quarter of this year. The IMCA guidance documents provide an invaluable library of information. Over 200 guidance documents cover everything that you might need to know about the marine contracting industry. It’s worth visiting the IMCA site and considering becoming a member.

We here at Certainty Software would recommend IMCA guidance documents are used together with ‘Certainty Software’… Certainty Software is the ideal tool to match with the guidance documents and checklists. Certainty Software allows for data entry from paper using optical character recognition (OCR) technology, browser or the Certainty Software app for smartphones and tablets. Certainty Software has an action management tool for tracking and closure of corrective actions identified in the inspection process. With Certainty Software there is no manual data entry and your inspection data is instantly available online for the management and reporting of performance across your business…. and what’s more, Certainty Software is guaranteed to reduce your audit and management costs.

For those who don’t know, all IMCA guidance documents can be downloaded free of charge by members from the IMCA website and can be purchased by non-members.

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The fifth blog in our seriesmen-1979261_960_720 on implementing a Behavioural Based Safety System discusses how to involve your people…

The good news is that it’s common sense and so obvious that a lot of
managers don’t bother to do it. But you should, because your people can make you look great or pretty dumb, so the choice is yours…

‘What do I have to do?’ I hear you say – Firstly,  clearly and simply explain what outcome you want. While you might understand your ‘vision’, your people don’t so they’re going to need it explained… Secondly, give them the resources to do the job. You wouldn’t expect a mechanic to fix your car without a spanner, and maybe a hammer… so it is with your plan. Give people what they need. YOU don’t necessarily know what they need, so don’t let you be the one to TELL them, ask them instead.

Thirdly, communicate clearly simply again and again. If you thought they listened to you first time round, you’re wrong – they didn’t. They’re still in shock and worrying about the implications of your announcements for themselves. They need reassurance and explanation, time and time again… remember they’re not stupid, but they’ve just got different priorities to you and they see things differently. Use training sessions, memos, newsletters, FAQs, and regular meetings or social events can all be used to present your ambition to your people. Remember to ask questions and LISTEN (remember last week’s blog entry). If they’ve not understood, then choose to communicate in a new way to make sure the information reaches them….

Fourthly, get everyone engaged…. you can do this by letting them be the ones to do the planning and the decision making. Ask for their input and use their ideas. If you’ve set out your ambition clearly then they’ll understand and it needs to be THEM who take the project in the right direction. This way, they have a vested interest in seeing the project succeed. This can not only empower and motivate people, it can also lead to better ways of working that could otherwise be overlooked.

Fifth –  Feedback is another great motivator so don’t wait for their annual review – tell them how they’re doing. Positive feedback should be given right away, to encourage more of the same performance. Negative feedback should also be given promptly but sympathetically too, so that people have the opportunity to change their approach. Schedule weekly meetings with individuals to discuss any ongoing issues. These meetings don’t have to take a lot of time but they can build strong working relationships. Don’t forget to thank people BOTH as a group and individually. A well timed ‘Lynda, I just want to thank you for what you’ve been doing on this project up to now’ is way more powerful than ‘Well done folks, lets have more of the same next week’.

Sixth – Act fairly, respect, and create an atmosphere of trust and a supportive environment. When problems do arise – and they will – examine them, understand the context and only then pass judgement. It could be that YOU have made a mistake somewhere along the line, so if you have, then admit it. Yes, admit it… your people will appreciate your honesty.

Lastly – Try ever so hard – please, really try to make work fun. There’s no need to be corny or stupid just smile, be friendly and be happy to be at work. We do so much of it, it shouldn’t be a pain…and anyway, people get a lot more done when they enjoy themselves.

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Businessman holds the hand near his ear and listening

Stop ‘transmitting’ and learn to listen to people

The fourth blog on our series of how to implement a Behavioural Based Safety System is about the need to listen to your employees and use the process to improve communication in the organisation. Many managers are often stuck on ‘transmit’ and expect their people to continuously listen to them as they spout on about the importance of the latest corporate initiative. Managers also often expect their people to actually read the latest circular or memo… the chances are, they won’t. So how do we engage staff? Well, we listen to THEM and that takes leadership…

Get to know your people, know what’s important to them and what’s happening in their lives. Without being like their doctor or therapist, you really do need to know what’s happening in their lives. Take a healthy interest in their activities such as where a person likes to go on holiday, know that their dog has died and what hobbies they or their kids have. These external influences will be driving their performances anyway. You’ll be amazed at the diversity of interests your people have outside work… YOU probably aren’t their central point of interest, surprising, eh?…

Provide clear direction…don’t expect your people to be clairvoyant. Make your expectations perfectly clear so they know what they are supposed to do. Don’t TELL them when you want something done by, ask THEM when they can deliver it and talk the delivery schedule through with them. You need their commitment – if your people say they can’t do something in the your expected time frame there’s probably a good reason for it, so LISTEN and resource the project accordingly. If you make every task a priority, people will know that you have no priorities.

Trust your people to get on and do it – that’s it, TRUST them until such time as the person proves themselves to be unworthy of trust.  When managers don’t trust people to do their jobs, the lack of trust plays out in a number of negative ways that affect the business.

Avoid constantly checking up on your people and telling them how to manage every little detail. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how you’d react if your boss constantly watched you or admonished you for every shortcoming. Perhaps your boss does treat you that way, but that’s no excuse for you to do the same. Listen and help people feel that their opinions are valued. ‘Listening’ is a critical management skill and when people feel listened to, they feel respected. You will then get much more information to help you implement your BBS or project.

When you do make final decisions, ask your people for their feedback. Don’t assume you are infallible and that they’re the stupid ones. Avoid creating roadblocks that teach people quickly that their ideas are always subject to ‘presidential’ veto and then wonder later on why no one has any more suggestions for improvement. Enabling people to make decisions about their work is true leadership. If you fail to react to the problems that do arise on the journey then those issues will soon fester if they’re ignored. Managers have a habit of hoping that an uncomfortable issue or disagreement will just go away on its own. It really won’t.

The best communication is transparent communication. Sure, some information is company confidential and you may have been asked to keep certain information under wraps for awhile, but aside from these rare occasions, share what you know.When you DO ask people for their ideas and improvement suggestions, and if you fail to implement their suggestions, DO let them know why.

Finally when things do go wrong, really think hard about where the blame lies. Take responsibility for your own actions and don’t simply blame your people. The responsibility is ultimately yours so LEAD and protect your people. When you blame people it’s you that will become disrespected and then they’ll be working against you, not WITH you. That will not only derail your project it’ll push up your costs, and that’s a subject for another day!

Simon BeechinorInspection management, Safety data, Safety managementLeave a Comment


Hyundai Fortune ablaze – File Picture

The costs and consequences of a major incident on board a ship at sea are extremely high. Certainty Software is an ideal inspection management tool for the maritime sector. It helps manage the huge amount of management data across an entire fleet and multiple office sites instantly and online – Most significantly, in an age of small crews operating a vessel on tight schedules, Certainty Software is proven to enhance productivity on board and substantially reduce inspection and audit costs.

Unhappily Port State Control detentions due to ISM failures are still quite common and the costs and consequences of being detained are serious. The objectives of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code are to ensure safety at sea, prevention of human injury or loss of life, and avoidance of damage to the environment and property. Similarly, the objectives of the International Ship and Port Security Code (ISPS) are to ensure the security of ships and port facilities. A shipping company is responsible for implementing effective safety and security management systems to ensure that both these objectives are met. Where this is done properly the risk of vessel detention can be minimised and costly fines and Port State Control detentions avoided.

The effective implementation of both ISM and ISPS also has a significant impact on the global reputation a fleet enjoys. It helps no one when a vessel from a particular fleet enters port but is viewed with suspicion by the local authorities. However the management of both ISM and ISPS codes can be onerous, particularly where there are several different nationalities involved in the management of the vessel. Not only does the language barrier sometimes hinder the proper management of ISM and ISPS, but so does the geography when management is diverse and spread across several geographical locations let alone across a fleet a several dozen vessels.

With the Certainty Software solution, there is no manual data entry and vessel inspection and audit data is instantly available online for the management and reporting of performance across your fleet. Certainty Software allows for data entry from paper using optical character recognition (OCR) technology, browser or the Certainty Software app for smartphones and tablets. With Certainty Software, your vessel inspection data instantly available for company wide reporting and analysis. Certainty Software also has an action management tool for tracking and closure of corrective actions identified in the inspection process.

Certainty Software is ideal for managing data and corrective action from any inspection process in the maritime environment.

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In our blog on setting up a Behavioral Based Safety system we suggested (in point 3) contacting others to try and learn from learn from experience. Whenever I’ve done this I’ve initially found the other firms’ management to be stand-offish and apparently feeling at some sort of commercial ‘risk’ as a result of my approach. I found managers often initially reluctant to talk because (a) they didn’t want to be seen to be helping a potential competitor and (b) they didn’t want to expose their weaknesses (as they perceived them to be). I went to some lengths to give them peace of mind that this was a collaborative exercise and I would be able to reciprocate in other similar ways. I guess I used the old adage that if I wanted something I had to give something first…

In any event the effect was transformative on my company at that time and, I think, on theirs. The single most important thing we saved was ‘time’.  We were able to short circuit our learning and move straight to putting in place preventative systems that we hadn’t considered necessary. We also established a kind of trust and this has developed into further contact between the firms involved. we felt able to collaborate on other commercial and operational projects and some good personal relationships were established between us. Clearly this communication saved us all a great deal of money. We saved money because we were able to divert managers back on to other tasks more quickly AND we didn’t suffer the potential pitfalls that our partners had.

On occasions we ‘transferred lessons’ in a formal environment, meeting between line managers. On other occasions it was simply an exchange over a sandwich or on the golf course (I’m lousy at golf and the excuse of a ‘business meeting’ saved much embarrassment). The point is, it doesn’t really matter how you engage or communicate, you can even use LinkedIn for example, the whole point is make sure you’re communicating and where possible you avoid trying to reinvent the wheel.

I’m a great fan of the Harvard Business Review and this article here may help you get started

Please do give feedback and let me know how you got on – you can always bounce ideas of us here at Certainty Software too, if you’d like to!….Good luck!

Simon BeechinorInspection management, Safety data, Safety managementLeave a Comment

Certainty Software - Tool for tracking and closure of corrective actions.The second point of our initial blog on BBS concerns the importance of piloting your intervention. Why conduct a pilot test?
A pilot test will help confirm if you are ready for full-scale implementation. A pilot test can serve as a trial run for your program and can help determine if any adjustments to your plan or adaptations to the program are necessary. It can also reveal unforeseen challenges that might arise during implementation (i.e., issues with the setting and logistics, particular lessons or activities for which more staff training or attention may be necessary) and ensures that your staff are well prepared to handle issues that come up during the full-scale implementation.
Pilot testing is an opportunity to gauge how your people will react to the program. It’s best to select a pilot group that is similar to your program’s specific target groups. The feedback from these people can offer a glimpse into how the group may respond to the plan. Most importantly, it can help confirm whether or not your program is a good fit for your people and whether minor adaptations to the program are appropriate or necessary.
Pilot testing can help you make better decisions about how to allocate time and resources. Pilot testing your program can help you determine if you need to spend more time or resources on particular aspects of the program. For example, you might learn that changes to your recruitment strategy are necessary or that you need to allocate more time for completing the evaluation activities than you had originally anticipated.
Pilot testing can help ensure that you are well prepared to measure the success of your program. A pilot test can highlight any adjustments to your evaluation plan that might be necessary to ensure that you are measuring the desired outcomes in the best way possible. The pilot test will be an opportunity to test your evaluation instruments as well. The pilot test will give both the evaluation team and the implementation team a chance to work together before full implementation and troubleshoot any issues that might arise with the distribution and collection of the evaluation data.

Simon BeechinorSafety managementLeave a Comment

We can only implement and maintain a functioning health and safety program in a business if the employees, safety leaders and management make safety the company’s number one priority. If management don’t practice what they preach, then health and safety will just remain ‘wishful thinking’. It’s called leadership. Without support from across the organization, safety failures will occur and any sort of improvement, let alone continuous improvement, will be impossible. If we really want to change behavior in the workplace we really need to understand the reasons why people make the ‘safety’ decisions that they do.  This article on Safeopedia is an interesting read highlighting three of the reasons why Behavioral Based Safety systems fail – I recommend you read this and bear it in mind as we develop the present theme of BBS in our own blog. Safety doesn’t start ‘in the field’. It isn’t something just for the operations guys to worry about. Everyone needs to be 100% focused on safety at the start of each day or shift, the moment they arrive on premises.