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The presenter has a hard hat

By Todd Phillips

We still don’t get it he says!

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Alan Quilley has an edge. He seems ticked off  with most of our “business an usual” approaches to safety — mainly because it just isn’t working.

Speaking to a packed auditorium of safety professionals at the CSSE conference in Victoria, B.C., the bearded and bespectacled Quilley is animated and engaged and appears relaxed and comfortable up on stage before his peers — even though he’s about to take direct aim at them. He says he’s not afraid to be the person who points out our flaws and helps spark the debate about change. “I want to be that voice,” says Quilley. “We are not doing very well.”

To prove his point, Quilley then cites a list of depressing death andinjury statistics that help lay the foundation for his presentation. Hetells delegates that more than 350,00 Canadian workers are injured orbecome ill seriously enough to miss time away from work each year.“That means 950 will be injured today,” he says. “And about 60 duringthis presentation.”

More than 900 workers die each year in Canada because of their work.“How do I know?” he asks. “It’s the same number as last year, and theyear before,” says Quilley. “It’s our job to get better at this.”

To help reverse the tide, Quilley says we need to do a better job of“seeing safety.” He says he’s developed what he calls his integratedsafety management by observing safe companies doing things very well.

The search for culture

Quilley says there are lots of things written about safety culture andhow to build one or find one. But he said the simplest definition issimply to honestly answer the question: “What’s your safety culturelike? Just ask people: ‘what it’s like around here?’”

Quilley, author of The Emperor has No Hard Hat, and a regular COScolumnist, says when he gets hired by companies to help them improvetheir safety results, he starts many projects by having employers andmanagers assess where they are on the safety evolutionary ladder.

You can’t get to world-class safety levels overnight, but you cancertainly make major improvements and it makes sense to learn from theworld’s best safety performers.

“You don’t have to invent anything,” says Quilley. “It’s about engagement.”

Quilley was so wrapped up in work, that he didn’t slow down long enough during his presentation at the CSSE event in Victoria, B.C. for our cameras to capture a crisp image of him in action. To find out more visit Alan’s website at:

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