Episode Summary

We realized that this episode will be our first “three-person” podcast discussion. We’ve invited Jop Havinga, co-author of today’s paper and fellow Griffith University colleague, to join us. Our discussion today centers around the paper “Should We Cut the Cards?”

Episode Notes

Assessing the Influence of “Take 5” Pre-Task Risk Assessments on Safety” by Jop Havinga, Mohammed Ibrahim Shire,  and our own Andrew Rae.  The paper was just published in “Safety,” – an international, peer-reviewed, open-access journal of industrial and human health safety published quarterly online by MDPI.

The paper’s abstract reads:

This paper describes and analyses a particular safety practice, the written pre-task risk assessment commonly referred to as a “Take 5”. The paper draws on data from a trial at a major infrastructure construction project. We conducted interviews and field observations during alternating periods of enforced Take 5 usage, optional Take 5 usage, and banned Take 5 usage. These data, along with evidence from other field studies, were analysed using the method of Functional Interrogation. We found no evidence to support any of the purported mechanisms by which Take 5 might be effective in reducing the risk of workplace accidents. Take 5 does not improve the planning of work, enhance worker heedfulness while conducting work, educate workers about hazards, or assist with organisational awareness and management of hazards. Whilst some workers believe that Take 5 may sometimes be effective, this belief is subject to the “Not for Me” effect, where Take 5 is always believed to be helpful for someone else, at some other time. The adoption and use of Take 5 is most likely to be an adaptive response by individuals and organisations to existing structural pressures. Take 5 provides a social defence, creating an auditable trail of safety work that may reduce anxiety in the present, and deflect blame in the future. Take 5 also serves a signalling function, allowing workers and companies to appear diligent about safety.

Discussion Points:

  • Drew, how are you feeling with just a week of comments and reactions coming in?
  • If people are complaining that the study is not big enough, great! That means people are interested
  • Introduction of Jop Havinga, and his top-level framing of the study
  • Why do we do the ‘on-off’ style of research?
  • We saw no difference in results when cards were mandatory, or optional, or banned
  • Perplexingly, some cards are filled out before getting to the job, and some after the job is complete, when there is no need for the card
  • One way cards may be helpful is simply creating a mindfulness and heedfulness about procedures
  • The “Not for Me” effect– people believe the cards may be good for others, but not necessary for selves
  • Research criticisms like, “how can you actually tell people are paying attention or not?”
  • The Take 5 cards serve as a protective layer for management and workers looking to avoid blame
  • Main takeaway:  Stop using Take 5s in accident investigations, as they provide no real data, and they may even be detrimental– as in “safety clutter”
  • Send us your suggestions for future episodes, we are actively looking!


“You always get taken by surprise when people find other ways to criticize [the research.] I think my favorite criticism is people who immediately hit back by trying to attack the integrity of the research.” – Dr. Drew

“So this link between behavioral psychology and safety science is sometimes very weak, it’s sometimes just a general idea of applying incentives.” – Dr. Drew

“When someone says, ‘we introduced Take 5’s and we reduced our number of accidents by 50%,’ that is nonsense. There is no [one] safety intervention in the world where you could have that level of change and be able to see it.” – Dr. Drew

“It’s really hard to argue that these Take 5s lead to actual better planning of the work they’re conducting.” – Dr. Jop Havinga

“What we saw is just a total disconnect – the behavior happens without the Take 5s, the Take 5s happen without the behavior. The two NEVER actually happened at the same time.” – Dr. Drew

“Considering that Take 5 cards are very generic, they will rarely contain anything new for somebody.” – Dr. Jop Havinga

“Often the people who are furthest removed from the work are most satisfied with Take 5s and most reluctant to get rid of them.” – Dr. Drew


Link to the Paper

The Safety of Work Podcast

The Safety of Work on LinkedIn