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Network Meeting – Improving Safety Performance by Addressing Human Behaviour

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NOTE - This in an ONLINE meeting. Please see the Agenda for weblink and access code to join the meeting.

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Cristian Sylvestre, Managing Director, HabitSafe

Topic:        A Improving Safety Performance by Addressing Human Behaviour (Helping people do less thoughtless things)


Safety is about more than just a good systems, tight rules and frequent conversations to strengthen culture. It’s also about “in the moment” decisions, or more precisely, the lack of them.

In 95% of incidents, inattention has lead to poor "in the moment” decisions.  When it comes to safety, it seems we are addicted to fixing the environment, improving the system or making safety more conscious through social means (conversations of one type or another). Although worth doing, these actions do little to help people minimise inattention.

An additional way of thinking about safety is also required.  We all think hard about safety at an organisational level. We also need to think about it at the individual level, particularly how to strengthen skills and habits so inattention at critical times can be minimised.

The latest neuro-biology discoveries have mapped the internal functions of the human brain, highlighting that most of what we do is not conscious, but largely automated.

We can now say with certainty we are biologically designed to zone-out, with our brains going into neutral, when we are doing familiar or repetitive tasks.  This is why doing things in autopilot is a commonly observed behaviour.  But it's not the only biological design of the brain to affect behaviour. Mental stress, generated from external events and internal perceptions also disrupt our ability to pay attention, increasing the risk of incidents. As does tiredness.

We have been looking at human behaviour from the outside-in for 40 years. Now we can look from the inside out, and our understanding of “why people do what they do” is very different.

The good news is, research has identified a simple model for how inattention comes about, and what can be done to deal with it more effectively, so people can make higher quality “in the moment” decisions.  Organisations which adopted this thinking see dramatic improvement in safety performance.


About your presenter

Cristian’s 25-year safety career started at ICI (now Orica) and then moved to Shell for 10 years. In this heavy processing environment, he learned a different way of thinking about safety.

In 2004, he founded HabitSafe to research and study a different approach to address safety.

As Managing Director, he applies the latest neuro-biology and behavioural research to improve safety outcomes for workplaces, often when performance has plateaued.  Cristian wrote “Third Generation Safety: The Missing Piece” an approach that helps people understand how inattention comes about and what we can be done about it.

As a professional chemical engineer, and having completed a Masters, he is trained to analyse complex systems and processes, and to use evidence-based science and hard data to deliver the simplest solutions that achieve positive safety outcomes.

Cristian has worked at over 100 workplaces in Australia and New Zealand with significant success. He has extensive practical experience in a range of industries including mining, manufacturing and construction.

Prior to COVID-19, he was on the road for over 200 days per year.


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