It doesn’t take me long in conversation with most health and safety people for the big WHY to emerge – so many of us do what we do because we believe in the need to help workers go home safe and healthy.  It’s all about the workers, the humans, right? But that’s not how we go about our work, our mission, when so often the human’s are sidelined, or at least not central to what we do.  Hmmmm

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.

This episode is brought to you by the Safety Professional Practice Differently Masterclasses, when this podcast is released, we’ve got dates lined up for Sydney and Melbourne will follow that, along with Auckland and Christchurch.  The entire premise of our work at Safety on Tap us helping leaders grow and drastically improve health and safety along the way.  You’ll remember previous guest and friend of the show Dave Provan who’s passionate interest and the focus of his PhD is understanding the past, present and future role of health and safety professionals.   So it made perfect sense for Dave and I to put our heads to together to help you create a more effective future for yourself, and your team.  The Safety Professional Practice Differently Masterclasses are a one-day learning event which will take you on that journey – an engaging combination of information, social and experiential learning leading you to take action, tailored for your specific situation and your context.  Having a framework to think about safety professional identity is critical to you and your team crafting a compelling value proposition for your business, and a service model which brings that to life.  Such a framework didn’t exist until now.  Find out more, including a video chat with Dave and I talking through what’s involved, at I’d love to see you at an upcoming masterclass.

Sara Pazell is my guest today, and she isn’t a, well she’s more of a….aw I’ll let you hear her explain it.  Rather than eloquently describe what she is, in this episode I was far more interested in HOW she goes about her work, with the human at the centre.  What I love about Sara’s work, her obvious passion and some of the perspectives she brings to this conversation, is that she helps us with some practical tools, concepts and language to help us move beyond ‘we’re the health and safety people here to help health and safety’ to something else, something more rounded, something more valuable: something like ‘we’re the people here to help improve work, focussed on your most important assets, the humans.  Health and safety is only one of the things that we positively influence by doing it this way’.  Imagine that.

Here’s Sara:

We covered a lot of ground in that episode, my head was spinning and after we stopped recording both Sara and I said to each other that we covered a lot.  So firstly, I want to avoid overwhelm.  Too many ideas is hard to digest, too many options makes it hard to take action.

So here’s my three takeaways from that chat with Sara Pazell:

Takeaway #1: What skills do we need to put the human at the centre of how we design work? I think its different to what many of us are taught, and what many of us focus on in professional development.  Sara described the way she thinks about and goes about her work.  She acts like a guest, not someone with a right to be there. She asks the experts doing the work what is important to focus on, and actually listens to them.  She positions a strategic value proposition with concepts like the Human Asset Action Plan, salutogenesis, and the Net Positive concepts.  With humans at the centre of our focus, we become facilitators, guides, enablers, connectors.  How does that sit with you and your team?

Takeaway #2: Lets reframe our focus.  Work analyst and designer is how Sara describes her role.  Rio Tinto was committed to this in Weipa by training up and supporting everyday workers to be work design champions.  Health and safety are outcomes of work, not work to be done in and of itself.  So health and safety outcomes were a result of good work design.  Maybe it’s time we start to reposition ourselves and our businesses to focus on work, rather than health and safety, and we’ll get it as an output anyway.

Takeaway #3: I love how casually but impactfully Sara told us about the outcomes of the projects and programs she used as examples.  She was crystal clear at the beginning on what outcomes they were trying to influence, a suite of things like productivity, health, wellness, sustainability and more.  If we in health and safety continue to say that health and safety is good for business and brings all these benefits, why don’t we target those other things and celebrate those improvements more? Less rhetoric, let the results speak for themselves.

A few other interviews which you’ll find helpful in relation to this one are:
– Jonathan Lincolne on sustaining positive change in episode 47,
– John Green in episode 35 on how Laing O’Rourke he and thinks about humans in the safe equation
– Bob Edwards explains the power of people to create learning from success and failure in episode 77
– Dave Provan in episodes 41, 42 and 69 explains his PhD research on the professional identity of health and safety professionals to help us create a future for ourselves

Here’s all the links to the articles and case studies Sara mentioned.  Make sure you also grab my personalised hand written reflections from this episode, and a copy of the transcript down below too.

Key messages from Sara’s thesis, “Good work design: Strategies to embed human-centred design in organisations”.

A journal article for the Journal of Health and Safety Research & Practice (about an asphalt job truck reviewed for procurement!).

A conference paper with program review of a participative ergonomics (good work design) program at Rio Tinto Weipa (read page 3 for their amazing outcomes)

A paper about a participative ergonomics project in road construction (the bitumen tape example Sara explains in the interview)

A book chapter (since published) – re: office well-being and ergonomics (Agile work design, etc.)

Here is Part 2 of a two-part article submission published in IQA magazine, offering a different angle on the topic of categorising health and safety interventions

Here are some of Sara’s LinkedIn blog posts on many of the concepts we spoke about:


Thanks so much for listening, I really appreciate you being part of the learning journey.  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.  Seeya!

Here’s your FREE download of:
 – my handwritten notes, PLUS a reflection template for you to use for this episode.  
 – The full transcript of this episode.  

I’ll also send you the links to all the available back-catalogue of reflection templates and transcripts so you can access these at any time.