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iSafe in Practice: A Funny Near Miss

Last week, I heard an interesting story when chatting to a friend over coffee. It was very amusing at the time, but on reflection, it raised some serious questions that could be relevant to my business.

A Safety Risk Assessor, "Debra" (not her real name), flew up to Cairns to do a safety visit there. The arrangement was that when she landed, a man named Craig from the business she was to visit (who will shall call ‘Company X’) would turn up in a white pick-up van, meet her at the airport, take her to the site, and then drive her back to the airport.

When Debra walked out of the airport, there was a white pick-up truck waiting outside. She asked through the window, ‘Hey, are you Craig?’

He replied, ‘Yes, I’m Craig’, so she hopped in to the van, and off they drove.

There were three men in the car who seemed to be giving each other strange looks. After a few minutes, one of them asked, ‘So where exactly do you want to go?’

Confused, Debra replied: ‘Well, to your head office of course!’

Equally confused, they asked, ‘And where might that be?’

Realisation now dawning on her, Debra asked, ‘So you’re not from Company X?’

The men all replied that they were not.

‘But you’re Craig!’ she exclaimed.

They all fell about laughing.

Later, Debra asked: ‘Why did you let me into the car if you had no idea who I was!?’

One man in the back seat was indeed named Craig, and it turned out that each man had thought that Debra knew one of the other men.

They all had a good laugh, drove Debra back to the airport, and then she got into the right pick-up truck with the right Craig and everything turned out alright (although she did have to suffer some ribbing from ‘the right Craig’ when he took her back to the airport – ‘Don’t go getting into any strange trucks anymore! I can’t trust you!’).

This story made me reflect on our own safety/risk management practices, and the safety of our own Risk Assessors.

For instance - what type of control do we have over the travel of our Risk Assessors? If one of our workers was in a situation like the one Debra experienced, who would have known? The client might have thought she missed a flight, we would have had no idea because we would have assumed she was busy for the day, and we might not even have had any idea until a family member might ring sometime late that night to ask where she is.

It also made us ask: What would happen if any of our employees had been in the vicinity of Bourke St Mall when the recent incident took place, or any other serious events? How would we know whether they are safe - and how far should we go to ensure it?

Should we put rules in place to say that our people need to contact us the moment they hear of anything untoward and there might be a concern that they’re caught up in it? How do we let them know to stay away from these areas where there might be incidents if we know that their day’s plans will take them through it? Do they need to let us know at the end of each day that they’ve returned safely to their hotel or to their home?

We haven’t put many any of these things in place yet because they’ve hardly seemed necessary. So how likely does a risk need to be before it’s important to take action? The problem is that there are infinite risks – so where should we draw the line?

While our Assessors are adults who can look after themselves (and we’re not their parents!), we do have responsibility for their safety.

Many businesses have their workers out on the road, or travelling from site to site in other cities or even overseas. While we may not all have ready answers to all of these questions, they are still important ones to mull over every once in a while, and to discuss with our workers.

The moral of this story could be to make sure you don’t end up with the wrong Craig!

But it really is more about being aware of the risks facing your workers.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call Dianne Gibert, Managing Director, Service Excellence Consulting, on 03 9555 3877, or email dianne@seconsulting.com.au.