Dave Whitelaw

Dave Whitelaw



This is the headline I don’t want to see - and to be clear, no-one is lost. Today. But I do want to generate some discussion amongst ranger teams around this possibility, and how to create organisational cultures that protects us from it. I want to take a moment to reflect on what it means to have a safety-first culture.

Heat kills more Australians than any other natural disaster - we all need to take it seriously but in the arid regions where many Indigenous ranger teams operate, it is an ever-present matter of life and death.

“What I want to see amongst all the teams I work with is a well maintained safety grab-bag, robust protocols, and most of all a safety-first culture.”

This “safety-first culture” can’t be stressed enough, because when we face dangers daily without serious incident that danger can eventually seem distant – and we become relaxed.

Without a safety-first culture, the batteries in SAT Phones and Radios go flat, first aid kits are forgotten and the safety protocols gradually become inconvenient.

So what is a safety-first culture and how do we know if we have one?

It isn’t the protocols we put in place - it is when the people within the organisation value those protocols.

Here are some of the key indicators I look for:

● People throughout the organisation have the same understanding of what safety means;
● People feel and act responsibly toward the safety of themselves and each other;
● Manager’s routinely discuss safety and review protocols;
● People routinely follow safety protocols;
● People are relaxed to talk about safety;
● The organisation allocates time and money to support people to follow protocols,
● Managers ensure people are trained to use safety equipment and follow protocols.

A positive internal culture is the lifeblood of any business or program. Isolated programs have to ensure they have a positive and effective safety culture as a key pillar of their overall program to ensure their success.

Comprehensive Grab Bags – first aid and communications

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