Effective frontline hazard identification tools

Article published in the Regulator | Issue 1: 2018 

Frontline hazard identification tools such as the ’Take 5 for safety’ and ‘STOP for safety’ are commonly used in the offshore petroleum industry as one of the layered defences to prevent accidents and dangerous occurrences. These types of tools are typically used as a final check for hazards prior to the commencement of a task. The contents of such tools vary widely, ranging from a few open-ended prompts through to exhaustive checklists.

Anecdotal evidence suggests frontline hazard identification tools are most effective when members of the workforce have ownership of their development, implementation and use. Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) are ideally situated to engage with the workforce and facilitate the development and implementation of these types of tools, provided they have sufficient resources (e.g. time, budget) and interest in doing so. When members of the workforce are able to collaborate in developing, implementing and refining the tool, take-up is likely to be stronger and sustained over time. This is particularly true where the tool is designed to be dynamic and able to evolve in response to learnings and changes.

NOPSEMA warns against the enforcement of daily targets or key performance indicators (KPI) for frontline hazard identification tools. This approach risks workforce disengagement and perception of the tool as a performance management device. In such situations, the objective of the tool can be diluted, changing from effective frontline hazard identification to ‘counting cards’. This impact can be made worse if accident investigations focus on an individual’s ‘failure’ to use the frontline tool correctly as a means of assigning blame, rather than exploring potential weaknesses in higher-level control measures. Such bureaucratic use of these tools discourages proactive behaviours to the detriment of the intended process (hazard identification) and outcome (risk reduction).

The use of frontline hazard identification tools can prove to be a valuable layer of defence against accidents and dangerous occurrences. They are most successful when members of the workforce have been involved in their development, implementation, and ongoing refinement, and when they have not been co-opted into a performance management tool or perceived to have been reduced to a KPI. Their design should be dynamic and adaptable to ensure that they remain relevant over time.