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Here is our first taste, bringing the Safety Color Concept to an entire conference room, most of whom who have never heard it before, live from the South Australian Safety Symposium. 


Hey, it’s Andrew and this is Safety on Tap. Since you’re listening and you must be a leader wanting to grow yourself and drastically improve 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 business. You will have probably heard the phrases safety clutter or safety decluttering by now coined by friends and previous guests of the show Dr. Drew Rae and Dr. Dave Provan. 


It describes the nature causes problems and effects of Safety Cutter. Dave Provan and I started Collaborating a little while ago to bring the Safety Cutter problem and solutions to life, out of academia and into practice. Many of you will have already have heard of the free Safety Clutter Scorecard, which we created to help get you started, which you can access at A huge number of you have been in contact wanting to know more about Safety Clutter. If this is a new concept for you. Have a listen to this episode and you’ll get the basic introduction. If you already know a little bit about it, you will hear some new data being presented for the first time about what Safety Professionals think about safety clutter and how it plays out in our work and data suggesting potential top safety clutter suspects. 


This will tie in with a few different previous episodes, which I suggest you go back and listen in kind of a curated playlist, Episode 49 with Greg Smith talked about some of the problems he sees in today’s approaches to Safety from our lawyers perspective, and we discussed his book paper safe, which describes his lessons from lawyers and case law, about the problems of clutter and how our legal justification for creating things often doesn’t stack up with lawyers and the courts. Episode 16 with Kobi Simat, CEO of Australia’s fastest-growing management systems certification company, best practice certification. Kobi, in this episode, calls ball ship on the behaviors and clutter that gets created when designing and implementing management systems in accordance with ISO standards, saying that we’re often missing the point and we don’t have to do it the way that we always have a very powerful message from a certification auditing company.


Episode 26, with award-winning safety blogger Kevin Jones, was a debate between he and I, we took sides on the question of whether the written word was more help or hindrance to Health and Safety as a binary argument, it highlighted that it’s really just one side or the other, who is more convincing. And I think it provides the foundation if you’re like that we need to think harder about the things that we ask our businesses to write down and how we communicate ourselves. Episode 69, with Dave Provan, discussed two philosophical perspectives relevant to Safety Clutter, from Eric Hollnagel Safety I, Safety II these are overlapping perspectives, not alternatives. And Dave brings in his Ph.D. research on the role of the Safety Professional, to make sense of how we’ve gotten to where we are now. our thinking and our practices, some of which are helpful and some of which are unhelpful, and how we might evolve. 


Safety Clutter is a strong thread through this. Episode 104 was a live coaching call with Steffan. And the problem that he wanted to work on as a listener just like you struggling and challenged by, the real-world context of trying to make things happen in your organization’s he was wanting to help reframe how Safety Data and statistics and reporting might work in his organization. As you’ll hear in this coaching conversation, this is a prime Safety Clutter candidate, which is calling for our attention.



And that episode was definitely had at its core, the question What’s it for? When we’re doing something when we’re changing something when we’re introducing something? We don’t ask the question, What’s it for? And finally enough that the title of Episode 92 where I take you through the basic model underpinning the safety clatter construct, it’s called the safety work model. And a differentiates things which are done in the name of Health and Safety. as distinct from the things which actually impact health and safety outcomes. 



You’ll get a sense not only that understanding and tackling Safety Clutter requires you to do some homework, but also how useful the safety on that podcast is. When you tie together that listen together with different episodes and different guests and different topics, you’ve got a pretty amazing resource for your professional development and growth. Last thing before we press play on the conference talk, since this presentation had accompanying slides, you’ll probably get more value from it if you have the visuals as well as the audio. So if you go to, you can watch the presentation with slides for the full sensory experience. Audio Video and the transcript are all available at



Kim: Okay, well third presentation isn’t really a presentation. It’s a kind of an interactive, whatever it’s going to be. But it’ll be good I can promise you that. entered Andrew Barrett is the Chief Connector safety on tap. He loves doing things to get well. He says different results. He launches Safety on Tap Australia’s number one professional development podcast to support health and safety leaders around the globe to improve and his job title chief connector means he spends time doing three things, all of which drive performance improvement, connecting people with new ideas, connect with people with each other, and connecting people with a better future selves to reach outside the box for those of you who haven’t heard before, often run to the very instant of what’s possible and be controversial. Loves doing this with like-minded Safety Leaders will advise you on internal programs, facilitation, coaching and speaking at conferences like this. So without further ado, let me introduce Andrew.  


Thank you, Kim. He’s head of Safety Clutter with the concept of decluttering at some point in time. Can I just get a show of hands? Okay, cool. So at least we’re talking to the right people in the right room. It’s a great pleasure to be here. And this is a fantastic group of people and I live in South Australia, having grown up in New South Wales, and one of the things that I appreciate about being here and with groups of people like you is that this is a much more intimate, much more connected community of Health and Safety professionals. It really is quite an honor to be here in service of you. If decluttering or the concept of Safety Clutter is something that’s interesting to you. 


Now, Kim said this is going to be a little bit different. In that sense. I’m not a big fan of talking heads. So I’m actually far more comfortable and I think you’ll get far more value out of something like the panel, which we’re going to have following this because the dialogue is a better way to learn than just hearing one point of view. But the concept of Safety Clutter and decluttering is relatively new. So I am going to go through relatively quickly what I’ll call a sprinkling of concepts. And then we’ll have the back half the presentation for some dialogue and discussions and questions. And even if you don’t have a question, I’m not going to shut you down. I’d like you to share your thoughts or challenges and things like that. Is that comfortable? We okay with that is an agreement. 


Okay, did anyone who gets the email and do the Safety Clutter scorecard in the last week or so? Can I get big like a high show hand? Okay, so there’s a sprinkling of people here who know what that’s about. When we talk about Safety Clutter. I think it’s important as a new concept for us to understand what are we actually talking about before we get too excited about taking action. That’s, that’s what we’ll do in the first couple of minutes here. So is a free resource. It’s available in service of Health and Safety Professionals and businesses in Australia to deal with this problem of safety cloud collaboration is between myself and the safety on tap time. And you heard me from Kim in the insurance The other half of the collaboration in is a guy who Dr. Dave Provan. So he’s one of the academics from Griffith University, who’s the author of the original academic research that describes the phenomenon of safety clutter, along with his colleagues, Dr. Drew Rae and Sydney Decker was also mentioned by Martin. So that’s what is all about. So, when we’re talking about something, I think it’s really important, we don’t spend enough time understanding what our words actually meant. 


So, safety clutter, the definition of safety, clutter is the accumulation and persistence of things of safety work that do not contribute to operational safety. So that is the theoretical construct if you like for what safety clutter that actually is. And it’s important that we talk about it because it’s really easy to misunderstand what we’re actually talking about. There’s a lot of misnomers and I want to make sure that we spend time talking about that today. And that comes from the research you can see the paper reference there. This concept of safety work, which was the one in air quotes, comes from this model of institutional Work called safety work or the safety of work. The important part that you need to know is that we do a number of things in the name of safety. 


And we often don’t have enough of a conversation about why are we doing them to what end? Do we do these things? And so there are some interesting insights that will come out of this later. But in short, the model describes a couple of different motivations. Social Safety is making sure that we feel like safety is important that it’s part of our agenda, that it is one of our top priorities, it’s not a top priority. demonstrated safety is making sure that we show that to other people so that we may as the leader means the safety professional means the frontline person that I show other people that safety is important. That showing also extends to our supply chain. So to our principal contractors, the other people that we deal with our suppliers and things like that, that’s demonstrated safety. 


Administrative safety is the staff for Safety Professionals spend most of their time and that ties in sometimes with demonstrated safety, that’s creating policies and procedures audits and checks inspections and things like that. This is the idea of a bureaucracy, which is a way to manage the process in business. And that’s been around since tylerism and ford. And it’s not necessarily the only way to do it. And it’s also not the only way to demonstrate compliance, as you’ve heard from Martin, the physical safety of the things that specifically go towards safety. So that’s new equipment changes to designs, that sort of stuff. And sometimes Safety Professionals spend some time in this space, you would describe this as the area of controls, if you like, so controls that coming out of our processes. That’s physical safety. But it’s not the same thing as operational safety, which is actually the work that gets done every day. And that ordinarily spaces whereas safety professionals, we spend almost no time influencing and understanding. 


So this is the model that helps us understand and ask that question, Is this Safety Work? Or is this the Safety of Work? A little bit of history, past, present, and future, as I said, this is academic evidence-based work. So the first paper, which that diagram comes from is safety work versus the safety of work and this very reputable journal. This has been published in the next one is about safety clutter just defining the phenomenon that flows on from this idea of safety work, which is where Safety calls it comes from. The next one that I want to talk about is the body of knowledge. And I’m glad that David mentioned it because I don’t think we spend enough time as non-students. Understanding what professional practice looks like in the context of our body of knowledge. 



This chapter, if you haven’t seen it, is about the artist professional is a critical consumer of research. So it’s really important that we recognize that the vast majority of safety practice doesn’t actually have an evidence base. There is no research or evidence to support what we do and how it relates to safety. That is true and uncomfortable. That is one of the reasons why in this piece of work, it’s really important that we take an evidence-based approach to deal with safety clutter or decluttering. And that led us to the creation of this free safety clutter scorecard which some of you have done so that’s available in The idea behind this is that we are trying to socialize the idea of Safety Clutter and decluttering in a way that is anchored in the evidence so that we can all improve our practice. And that’s what brings us here today. 



So there’s some fears and barriers and objections which we explored in a conference like this not that long ago. And I thought it might be some useful data to talk to you about. This is really insightful. So in a room like this, I asked the room if you get this concept of safety clutter, if you think that there are things that don’t contribute to operational safety that we do, then what are your biggest concerns, fees or barriers? Now, this is a question that is really critical to the process of change. This is how coaches work. It’s actually the new bit is not the hardware, it’s actually moving away from where we are right now. So these are the top three barriers, demonstrating compliance with some other party. So this is the fees, concerns or objections associated with decluttering.


It was also causing harm by removing something important. that’s reasonable, you would think, and then there’s also losing data information or knowledge. Now, here’s the insightful bit 41% of the respondents listed that as the top concern, demonstrating compliant 29% on losing data and 19% are causing harm. What that means is, as Safety Professionals, which is the vast majority of people who’ve completed this scorecard, we are more than twice concerned associated with proving something to someone else, then we are about potential harm associated with our actions. I think that’s a really worrying indictment of the work that we do. And so this goes to Martin’s point and to David’s point about the need for us to question and challenge the way that we operate. 


So the other inside out of this recent research that we’ve done is also that we are emotional. So we primed people when we asked the question, do you have fears, fears were one of the words we asked about. So it’s biased in that way, but it’s interesting to see what fears come up. So words like loss and scary and uncomfortable and protective, and the sorts of things that we feel when we start talking about decluttering. We have to have a conversation with ourselves about how we’re feeling about this because I think we’ve got to get over some stuff.



But once we are emotional about this idea of safety clutter and decluttering, it’s also important to recognize that safety clutter isn’t just a benign thing, it is actually dangerous. So the research proves that the presence of safety clutter things in businesses in the name of safety that doesn’t contribute to operational safety. Actually, steal ownership from line managers can pace with production. It’s distracting, it erodes trust and more. So it’s actually damaging, it’s actually dangerous. And so you could argue that safety clutter actually has it. 


Now, this is a really interesting one. So if you go on and do the scorecard, you’ll answer some of these questions. For those of you who do have the school card, you will have to answer this question. Now. I want you to just get a piece of paper down the question is, or the statement is, I believe that in my organization, a lot of time is spent doing things in the name of safety without actually improving safety. Can I just get you to write everyone writes down on your piece of paper now one of these five options strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree or strong or strongly disagree? So just write that down. I’m not going to ask you to put your hands up anything like that, I just want you to write it down so that you know where you sit when I reveal the data, has everyone written something down? Try it out quickly. So we get to your dialogue. 


So this is the result, more than 190 people, the vast majority of which are safety professionals strongly agree or agree that we spend a lot of time doing things that have nothing to do with safety. So you can have a hypothesis here, which suggests that 70% of Safety Professionals have no idea what they’re doing, and 13% of the good ones. Is that a reasonable hypothesis? It could be but I think we’re full of ourselves. If that’s the case, I think it’s actually more reasonable to entertain, that we know that this problem exists and that we are honest with ourselves and our potential role in it. And our actual emissions that contribute to it, and that we just don’t know what to do about it. Because the thing is, is that there are more triggers to add stuff to safety, then there is the take it away, is that true. So this is an interesting insight. So a little bit more about the effects of safety clutter, so safety clutter damages employee ownership in safety. 


So this is again, this is based on the research, I’m not giving you opinion here, it creates problems in differentiation. So people don’t actually know what’s actually important and what’s not important. It is bad for adaptability. And this goes to Martin’s point about new and emerging safety philosophies, which actually recognize that in complex work and complex situations, we can’t actually control or predict what’s going to happen. And so what we need to do is we need to build flexibility and adaptability into a resilient system. So if you’re like, instead of saying, there’s one way to do it, we say, don’t go beyond this one. And don’t go beyond that one, and you have freedom within the middle. And so safety clutter is actually bad for adaptability. it erodes trust. 


So this has a very serious cultural impact. Who here has ever heard someone say, you’re just asking me to do this. So this only exists to cover someone …. has anyone ever heard a comment like that? This is exactly what we’re talking about. And it happens all the time and creating additional trade-offs between safety and productivity. And so this is very relevant. So if you’ve got a supervisor who needs to spend 15 minutes at the beginning of a job or half an hour, or whatever it is doing paperwork, then you’re actually taking that supervisor away from doing supervisory work, which is actually operational safety. 



And so that is the trade-off that we create when we have fingerprints on Safety card So the safety cloud a scorecard goes through a number of things. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s what we’re trying to do with the safety clutter scorecard is to help you start a conversation about the potential extent of safety clutter in your organization’s. So it asks you questions about these sorts of things. I’m sure you would recognize most of them. Would you like to know a few insights from the data? Would that be helpful? And then we’ll get to questions. I promise. 


That number one concern again, so the vast majority of this sample is Health and Safety professionals. The number one candidate for safety, quality, safety, Performance Reporting, and injury reporting. Would anyone agree with that? stick your hand up really high, because we need to be serious about this. Okay. So that’s interesting because if we ask the question to our frontline people, I guarantee you that that’s not going to come up. And I’ll come back to that point in a minute. So as most Safety Professionals That is our number one concern 75% of respondents, more than 190 people believe that this is potential safety clutter. So the question is, what are we going to do about it? And that’s where we kind of get stuck. And that’s where I hope to help you get unstuck today. 


The second one is the Safety Committee meetings. 69% of respondents agree that safety committee meetings are potentially safety clutter. Would anyone agree with that? So none of this is new, right? So this piece about 70% on the left-hand side, saying, the vast majority of what we do potentially doesn’t contribute to the safety work. This is not news to you, right. So the front end of the problem, knowing that there’s a problem is not the focus, it’s actually what we do. 


Now, there’s a few more insights, personal risk assessments, take five start cards, and so it has its logs with the next two down. So these are the top four that you’ve just seen from our sample. Now, I haven’t given you the data on this because it gets a little bit skewed between the extent of what people think it could be Safety Clutter, and the proportion of people but in any case, this is insightful about what this sample of mostly safety for I think are the primary targets for safety clutter and decluttering. But don’t declutter on this, because this data set that I’m talking to you about is a disaggregated group of professionals from all over the world, mostly safety people. It’s usually by a sample. It’s interesting, but it’s usually biased. 



And so the more important sample that you need to focus on is what sample your organization within your organization, your context, that’s where you actually need to be deriving your own insights and get your own data about potential safety clutter. So there are three questions that we need to ask about safety clutter in order for us to satisfy ourselves that it makes the definition and it’s called the three C’s. So the first one is to what extent did this actually contribute to safety? The second one is how confident are we that we know that and that’s my evidence, and there are two types of evidence, there’s evidence that exists in literature somewhere else or that someone else has done and that’s relevant to our context for this evidence, we create ourselves and this is a new thing which goes back to the body of knowledge and not only being consumers of critical consumers of evidence of research but actually creating our own. 



And the third is the consensus. So to what extent the stakeholders involved agree with those first two things. The third one is the most important one. So a sample of one Safety person doing a safety clutter scorecard is not sufficient for you to know whether something is safety clutter. And in the report on the second last page, where we talked about the data insights that you get out of your scorecard, it says, this will tell you to zero, about the potential for safety clutter in your organization, because you have to go and do this yourself. 



And so this is the three C’s. Now, the other interesting thing, which I touched on before is this idea of what we call the ratchet. And it’s this if you sit down and you think about what potentially causes safety clutter, you know how a ratchet works, click one click at a time and it gets tighter and tighter and tighter, or if you’re using the jackets higher and higher and higher. It only goes in one direction until you actually released the ratchet. And so the thing is, is that we operate in a system and a safety system which is informed by-laws and standards and professional practice and things that we make up because we make up a lot of stuff, and it just continues to ratchet in the direction of adding. And we don’t ever take the stuff away. 


And to be honest, many of us are quite fearful of taking things away. And why are we fearful? What’s our number one concern, not being able to demonstrate compliance. So we’re actually not that concerned about whether we take something away and it affects safety. we’re more concerned about showing someone else. So we need to introduce triggers for us to take the stuff away. But we have to do it in a way that is evidence-based, because if something goes wrong, we need to explain ourselves, right? Is that reasonable? Okay. Which is interesting, because when things go wrong, and I asked, Well, why were all these processes he the regulator never asks, well, did this actually work? I just saw you didn’t comply with the process. Yeah. So it’s not the regulator’s job to prove that it’s our job.


So, tackling safety clutter. So it requires an evidence-based approach as a critical consumer or creator of evidence. We need to do this properly. So there’s a couple of things that we need to do the first thing, like I said, don’t go out and declutter straightaway. This is not a Marie Kondo job. This is actually starting to have a conversation in an organization about safety clutter. So if this is a new concept for you, you need to get familiar with it go into the safety, kata scorecard. I’m recording this presentation right now. And you can listen to my podcast in a couple of weeks, and you can share that with people, the conversation is important. So we need to do a bit of thinking before acting, we can’t just act our way into a new way of thinking. 


The second thing is, is finding the low hanging fruit based on the three C’s. And that is the start of our evidence generation process. That is the start of our logical experimental approach. And the third one is conducting a controlled safety clutter removal trial. Now, this, again, is scary to some people, but it’s not that complicated for you to have a hypothesis about safety clutter, and to test that hypothesis. And lastly, I think we need to go to this big challenge of redefining the role of safety professionals, my collaborator, Dr. David Provan, his Ph.D. was focused entirely. In fact, he’s the world’s number one expert on the role of the safety professional. And so safety clutter you can join the dots here, that the safety cloud of work that has flowed out of that work, quite clearly say That safety clutter is an important problem if you like the safety professionals need to tackle a couple of resources for you before we get to your questions and discussion. 


So is where you can go into the free scorecard, you’ll hear a little bit about the safety of work and safety work, Episode 120, I interviewed a lady called Michelle Oberg who’s a safety innovation lead. How’s that for a new job title. And so what her job is, is to actually explore in her organization opportunities for them to innovate. Safety clutter is one of the things that she does, she tells a story about an experiment that they’ve run on pre restarts. And then finally, Episode 41, which is my first interview with Dr. Provan talks about how we need to rethink our role. Because if we continue to try and stick with our existing way of thinking and try and tackle safety clutter, then we’re only going to get so far if we rethink who we are and what we do, then I think we’ve got a better chance of dealing with safety clutter.



 I want to hear your questions. I want to hear your objections. I want to hear your challenges because the dialogue is an important part of us moving forward with this. So Hopefully that’s playing a helpful sprinkling for you. I’m looking forward to the chat next. So thank you.


That conference presentation was followed by a fantastic panel discussion, where the audience got to jump in and ask their questions and share their concerns and excitement and ideas about decluttering safety. Thanks to the South Australian organizers of the safety symposium for the invitation to speak and to the Australian Institute of Health and Safety. For so generously allowing me to share the recording with you are a rare a true organization invested in supporting the Safety Profession, whether you are a member or not. If you want to learn more about safety clutter, and how your organization might start decluttering safety, I have a few places for you to go first if you’re exploring the topic for the first time and you need some thoughts you need some homework, I recommend you get online. And you do your own safety clutter scorecard where you get a personalized report. After only 10 minutes of questions, you’ll have that report which gives you key insights into the safety clutter concepts and evidence and potential clutter candidates or suspects. If you’re like in your context, you can get that for free at 



Second, if you want to, again, tackling safety clutter with some help, or to get prepared to take an anti-clutter approach, if you’re creating or reviewing a system or framework, then we’re here to help. The work that Dave and I have done on safety clutter is not theoretical postulating that works been done already. The safety kind of work that we do is designed for people to take action to improve health and safety outcomes in the real world. If you want some trusted advice to do that, send us an email info at, that’s info at and let us know. 



My only final caveat is please don’t start decluttering after listening to one podcast or getting one online report. Decluttering is an evidence-based disciplined process that requires patience. It’s a new idea, a new theory, and new practice. So do your homework and don’t rush into it before you and your organization are ready. But hopefully, this helps get you started. 


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. See you!