Posted on Tuesday, November 7th, 2017


270 delegates, representing 60 organisations, gathered at the 2017 Mineral Products Association (MPA) Health and Safety Conference and Awards and devoted their morning sessions to reflect one of the most challenging years on record for MPA in terms of fatalities and incidents.

With a conference theme of  “Admitting the Truths…Addressing the Realities”, MPA Chairman and Tarmac Senior VP Martin Riley got proceedings underway. Inter alia, he said,  “Today needs to be a seminal moment for the Association and, in turn, the industry. Today must be the day of change, when we change our conversation on health and safety and reset our agenda. If that happens we may be able to claim success, but only if we reverse current trends and we genuinely commit to achieving Zero Harm. We need to become less tolerant of hollow words, shallow commitments and lack of application.”

Paul Difford, Director with Neucom Ltd and the IIAI Research & Development Centre, gave the first key-note speech of the morning and focused on a question that had been set by Kevin Stevens, MPA H&S Manager. Kevin’s question was short and to the point, “why are we still failing to learn from incidents?”.

As an investigator called upon to assist some of Neucom’s clients, Paul has to deal with the aftermath of fatal accidents on a regular basis and was, therefore, professionally attuned to an underlying mood. In part to assist, he touched upon the role of chance in our working and everyday lives and emphasised its undiscriminating nature by way of a quote from Ecclesiastes 9:11.



Returning to the question, ‘why are we still failing to learn from incidents‘, he offered that the answer lies first in admitting to a painfully obvious and simple truth, “people, not things, cause accidents”. Secondly, organisations must ask deep and meaningful questions regarding the basis and underlying philosophy of the approach to causation employed within them.

Paul then proceeded to identify the errors within the prevailing causal paradigm and explained how it misses salient cause and, in consequence, allows the same type of accident to repeat itself and leave the relevant organisation shocked and surprised by its seemingly unpredictable re-occurrence.

Despite the tragedies, the MPA conference acknowledged many award winning initiatives and re-confirmed its commitment to Zero Harm. Difford lent his personal support but urged industry to realise, a). zero harm does not mean zero accidents, and b). accurate data analysis (and, hence, effective remediation) requires a thorough understanding of why that statement is correct.

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