What does it sound like, to have permission to not focus on certain things in health and safety? What one concept are we missing from risk management that makes a massive difference?

Hey, it’s Andrew, and this is Safety on Tap. 

Since you’re listening in, you must be a leader wanting to grow yourself and drastically improve health and safety along the way.  Welcome to you, you’re in the right place.  If this is your first time listening in, thanks for joining us and well done for trying something different to improve! And of course welcome back to all of you wonderful regular listeners.

My guest today is Tim Lie.  Is he a safety professional? I ask him that, so you’ll have to wait and see what he says.  What I can tell you is that his roles have included group HSE responsibilities, lifecycle alignment, culture, and capability.  You don’t often hear those things in people’s job titles, do you?

I met Tim a while back when I was invited along to a national health and safety team workshop.  It took all of 2 minutes for me to be really curious about Tim.  He is broadly read, he has both a practitioner and academic background, he is an engineer who loves solving problems but is hyper tuned into the messy people side of business, and he talks in a way that gives you a deep insight into how his brain works, which is fascinating. 

So that’s why I wanted to introduce him to you! We had a wide ranging chat, dove deep on a few things but still covered a fair bit of ground.  I hope you enjoy, here’s my chat with Tim Lie:

How’s that to leave us hanging on a question like that! It may disappoint some of you that there weren’t a huge number of perfect answers or next steps from that conversation.  I think that is actually really good, because what I hope you heard is how we need to grapple with some of these challenges, that we need to think conceptually about what we do before rushing into action, and that there are no easy answers.  You might say that this was more of a teaching to fish conversation than a giving you the fish conversation.  In fact I had trouble picking just a few takeaways…I’ll share my few anyway in a moment, but would love to hear what you took away from this episode.  Join the conversation by leaving a comment for Tim and I over at safetyontap.com/ep217

Here’s my three takeaways from that chat with Tim Lie:

Takeaway #1: It’s not safety, it’s business.  In order to achieve what we set out to as health and safety leaders, we need to talk less about that and more about business. That might sound paradoxical but it’s easier than you might think. You can start by falling out of love with your safety stuff, and fall in love with day to day operations, and you will see a whole lot more opportunity to improve health and safety outcomes than before. 

Takeaway #2: Discussion about risk needs discussion about materiality. The problem with risk assessment these days is that everything is assessed to be important, so nothing is left out and no one can differentiate what is genuinely more important.  In roles like ours, talking about materiality, and helping our organisation understand and dance with materiality, gives us permission to double down on the most important stuff and permission to leave the small things to the very competent people who manage work every day.  This is the key that unlocks the shackles to first aid and LTI’s, fire extinguishers and trip hazards, and directs us to mass casualty risks, and things that will shut down the business.  Materiality needs to be a part of your work. 

Takeaway #3: Tim said we are constantly waging a credibility war. He said it like a punch in the face.  How credible are you perceived to be by the people you seek to serve? Your opinion doesn’t matter here, it’s theirs that counts.  Oh, and if you struggle with credibility, then maybe the earlier takeaways, to get us talking less about safety and more about business, and the materiality of risk, they are two great places to repair or improve your credibility. 

Thanks so much for listening.  Until next time, what’s the one thing you’ll do to take positive, effective or rewarding action, to grow yourself, and drastically improve health and safety along the way?


Transcript – Ep217: Some nuances to safety professional practice, with Tim Lie

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