Safe Work Australia has released a report on ‘Attitudes towards risk taking and rule breaking in Australian workplaces’. It was identified that 15% percent of workers and 11% of sole traders agreed that they accept risk taking and rule breaking at work.
One might think that this calls for an increase in regulation and for more resources to be thrown at the perceived problem, but Deloitte’s recent ‘Unleashing productivity’ report proffers an interesting angle.
The report suggests that Australians impose too many rules and regulations on themselves, resulting in lower productivity. Deloitte suggests that organisations are not adequately weighing up the costs and benefits of introducing new rules and that government and business alike set rules that are too prescriptive, overreact to crises, let rules overlap, don’t listen to those most affected, and don’t go back later to check how well – or how badly – their rules are working.
The report suggest that individuals impose rules to avoid being seen to ‘stuff up’ rather than assessing the insurance cost of the ‘stuff up’. Deloitte reasons that organisations should address the way they assess risks in order to unlock their profit potential. They offer these five steps:
- Cleanse: Slash the stupidity – ask staff to list the dumbest things they are required to do as a result of the business’s own rules, then stop doing them.
- Challenge: Businesses should stop asking “What could go wrong?” and focus on “What must go right?”, then challenge their rules in that light.What are their rules really trying to achieve, could they be improved and are they cost-effective? If not, there may be more to dump. This sentiment is reinforced by Hollnagel’s Safety I to Safety II initiatives.
- Create: Foster a culture focused on performance rather than compliance, and ensure the organisation’s rule-makers are aligned to its business goals.
- Change: Businesses and others should change the way they set new rules and audit old ones to better link rules with strategy and risk appetite.
- Capitalise: Make the most of these changes to realise the business’s full potential.
As Australians, we need to rethink the way we work to ensure that we are as productive as possible and that we alleviate the pressures that lead to risky behaviour. This includes assessing the rules themselves to ensure they are measured and appropriate.
By Marc McLaren, Director of Safety
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