The butcher who became a cognitive behavioural specialist

When Craig was working as a butcher, his boss gave him an ultimatum - if you are still in your current job in six months, you’ll be fired.

The tough love approach was how Craig’s boss convinced him he had more to offer than butchery.

“I am really thankful to him because it was the nudge I needed to start using my brain more,” Craig said.

He’s now the superintendent of Health, Safety and Environment for BHP Mitsubishi Alliance Peak Downs mine.

While he was still studying occupational health and safety, he met a safety manager working for BHP in Queensland.

“He said to me that he’d had people with the piece of paper saying they could do the job, but they couldn't engage and talk to people,” said Craig.

Like many people with retail experience, Craig is good with people and in 2007 the safety manager “took a chance” and offered Craig a twelve month contract.

Ten years later and Craig now specialises in cognitive and behavioural based safety at the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance Peak Downs mine, in the coal-rich Bowen Basin of central Queensland.

“It is logical for people to say they don’t want anyone getting hurt at work and yet people still keep switching off on little things and people do get hurt,” he said

“Getting rid of those little mind gaps is what my work’s all about.”

He is currently helping embed the Field Leadership Program, which is entering its second year.

“Helping people highlight the safe behaviours they need to replicate and ensuring the processes are correct is critical.” he explained.

“We are wired to take shortcuts because our brains take in eighteen thousand bits of information in less than a second and we can't possibly focus on everything,” he said.

He said the Field Leadership Program is designed to help personnel reset their thinking, so they can communicate effectively with their teams and vice versa.

He draws the comparison of being in a dark room with a torch.

“You are only focused on where the torch is pointing,” he said.

“Field Leadership challenges people to not just dwell on numbers but to focus on the quality of their work,” he said.

One task involves getting managers to do an audit of the effectiveness of the communication process between the front line and management.

“Often people don’t want to challenge someone doing something wrong, especially when it’s your boss.

“It’s a bit like telling someone who’s cooked a meal for you that it’s fine when in reality it’s not very good.

“Harder still if that person is your superior,” he said.

Craig says helping people remove the clutter in their thinking process, especially when it might save a life, is very rewarding.

“It focuses you on what is really dangerous,” he said.

“There is no more important process than effectively working out what can kill you, what are the critical controls and ensuring you have verified that they’re working.”