The Lifesaving Rules

21 July, 2021
Lifesaving rules illustration of a pool with health and safety measures highlighted

Lifesaving Rules are not exactly the same across every industry but the principles will always be the same. Initially developed in high-risk industries such as oil, gas, construction and rail, they form a set of essential behavioural safety rules to be followed by every person within the organisation. No exceptions. These high-risk industries recognised the need to provide clear, simple and consistent information about the specific risks in their workplaces. Through rigorous data analysis, they identified those activities that were most likely to result in fatalities. This was then used as the starting point for a clear set of Lifesaving Rules designed to change behaviours, to mitigate risk and reduce life-altering injuries and fatalities. They also have the knock-on effect of reducing other, less serious injuries.

Lifesaving Rules do not address every risk or hazard. They draw attention to those activities most likely to lead to a fatality, and the necessary actions to minimise the risks. These are simple actions that every individual can take to prevent a work-related fatality. Obviously, they only cover actions over which employees have control. It is essential that the rules are understood by all staff, their supervisors and their leaders. They also rely upon management putting a sturdy framework in place, including company management systems, policies, safety training programmes and operating procedures.

What are the Lifesaving Rules?

These do vary and, as mentioned above, are based on the specific work-related risks in a particular industry. They are always short, clear and easy to understand. They also tend to be accompanied by simple graphics or icons to embed understanding and provide an instant reminder. If you look at the Lifesaving Rules of the IOPG and Network Rail below, you’ll see that NR use a series of Do’s and Don’ts, whereas the IOPG list the positive actions that everyone must take, depending on the work they are undertaking. The most common rules cover activities such as:

  • Working at height
  • Driving
  • Working with electricity
  • Working with gas or flammable materials
  • Exclusion zones around moving machinery
  • Lifting
  • Working in confined spaces

As well as specific activities, they also cover things such as not bypassing safety controls; making sure you are authorised, trained and have all paperwork in place; being fit for work; keeping out of harm’s way by being vigilant.

Examples of Lifesaving Rules

Lifesaving rules reference chart

Lifesaving rules

Benefits of a standardised set of Lifesaving Rules

Having a standardised set of Lifesaving Rules across every site within an organisation

  • increases individual awareness of risks
  • allows consistent use by employees, contractors and operators doing similar work anywhere in the world
  • enables better transfer of knowledge, experience and lessons learned
  • increases buy-in across the business
  • simplifies training

Senior management commitment

Senior management involvement and commitment are essential. They must create the conditions necessary to enable everyone to follow the rules. Before even embarking on a programme, organisations must have a safety management system in place. This should cover, amongst other things: fitness to work (including a drug and alcohol policy); fatigue management; safe systems of work; hazard awareness; risk assessment. They must ensure that staff are trained to do the tasks required. Equipment must be fit for purpose and fully maintained. Lifesaving rules only work if anyone, at any level, can stop a job – without repercussion or retaliation – if there is any doubt about safety. This is not snitching or whistle blowing. It is saving lives. It can, however, be a major shift in thinking for both staff and management.

Steps in implementing Lifesaving Rules

  • Review your organisation’s data on fatalities and life-changing injuries. Use this information to identify your high-risk activities, plus when, where and how they happen.
  • Develop your rules based on this assessment.
  • Develop a change management programme in conjunction with contractors and sub-contractors.
  • Ensure implementation , use and compliance are owned by line management, and supported by HSE professionals.
  • Develop a roll out and education plan.
  • Implement monitoring methods to determine the success of the programme, and any changes required.

Making sure the rules are followed

Simply communicating the rules and expecting people to follow them is not enough. Yes, they have to know what the rules are but they also need to understand why they are important and what that means for an individual’s role. There should be a focus on care, concern and personal accountability for themselves and the people around them.

Everyone throughout the organisation must have the authority to stop work and intervene if they observe any unsafe activity or a Lifesaving rule being ignored. Intervention must be encouraged to prevent injuries and fatalities. To achieve this, there must be a positive, open reporting culture. It must not be seen as telling tales but a way of understanding why something happened so that lessons can be learned and shared. Only a very small proportion of incidents are actually due to human violations. Most involve system-level issues such as unclear procedures, resources, poor labelling or tools.

Continued engagement

As with any other culture change or programme, it requires consistent ongoing effort to build and reinforce engagement throughout the workforce. The aim should be to steadily improve performance and participation through a range of tools, such as:

  • Awareness campaigns
  • Ongoing training
  • Recognition of interventions
  • Recognition of best practice
  • Feedback within the organisation and from contractors and sub-contractors
  • Integration into contractual agreements with contractors and sub-contractors

Fun, teamwork and TBBP bring the Lifesaving Rules to life

At The Big Picture People, we specialise in bespoke, highly-tailored training games. They harness powerful, psychological tools to get your workforce thinking. We use gaming mechanics that make games fun and absorbing, integrated into non-game environments to improve engagement. Played in small groups, these games allow for socialisation, promoting interaction between staff at all levels of an organisation. They provide a non-pressured, safe-to-fail way of exploring real life scenarios and the consequences of different behaviours.

For more information and to see how real people play, pop over to The Safety Game® page. Or book a free 30 minute call with us and find out how a bespoke safety game could increase knowledge, retention, engagement and understanding of your Lifesaving Rules.

The Safety Game® – a more natural way to learn

The human brain likes to work things out for itself. Adults prefer facilitators rather than lecturers, so training needs to involve interaction, problem solving and the chance to reflect on what has been learned. We need to immerse our employees in the Lifesaving Rules, get their hands in and dirty. Your training should make them want to explore the whys and wherefores, how what they do makes a difference and, ultimately, how safety behaviours benefit them too. They are far more likely to retain what they have learned. They may even become your greatest behavioural safety advocates.

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