Established in 2002 under the leadership of Gerry Gibb, Safety Wise undertakes investigation training and investigations into workplace incidents including fatalities, high-potential incidents, serious injuries, and near-miss events. In light of current CEO, Luke Dam being recognised within the CEO 100 Awards, we got in touch with him to learn more about the company and his career.
Safety Wise services all industries and operates globally, its main focuses being mining, government, and construction, and it has, to date, trained over 110,000 people via both face-to-face and online training, in seven languages, and across 43 countries. The company does this by maintaining values of building trust and respect, stepping up to the mark, communicating openly, working as a team, challenging the status quo, and by adding value to everything it does.
All of these are really important to the company, not only in its day-to-day interactions among the team but also with its clients. When its people are dealing with an incident in the workplace, they need to have challenging conversations about what happened and what needs to be done to prevent a recurrence.
Having undertaken nearly 800 incident investigations globally, Safety Wise explores factors that contribute towards an incident by using the Incident Cause Analysis Method (ICAM), which covers absent/failed defences, individual/team actions, task/environmental conditions (workplace), task/environmental conditions (human factors), and organisational factors.
Fortunately, the founder of the business, Gerry Gibb was instrumental in the development of the ICAM process, so the company was able to make significant inroads globally in embedding the process into many organisations.
Like many, company CEO, Luke Dam first got into workplace health and safety (many, many!) years ago, when, as he says, he was “very much on the power trip and looking to save the world from every safety infraction”. “Dare I say, I assumed the role of the safety cop? It took me a while and a big shift in mindset to realise that this doesn’t work – Don’t get me wrong – if someone is in imminent danger, there’s a place for stern words and actions.”
He then stepped into various training roles and discovered the joys of watching people grow as they learnt new things. This really ignited his passion for helping and training others. When he stepped back into safety, Luke was able to be a far more effective communicator and realised the benefits of actually helping people understand, for example, why they could or couldn’t do something and helping them make informed decisions themselves.
When Luke was first tapped on the shoulder for his current role as CEO, the owners of the company were looking to transition to retirement. He said, “I was there to manage the day-to-day business as COO, but at times I felt like a figurehead with no real authority, but as the owners transitioned and started to step back more, it became easier for me and obviously, the trust was building as well. Let’s face it, it’s got to be hard to let go of your baby that you’ve nurtured over the years!”
He continued, “I also had the challenge, that, unlike the owner who developed the processes and was one of the most experienced and respected incident investigators in the industry, I had none of that. Having said that, I was there to manage the business, not investigate incidents or deliver training. This however also created angst at times, especially as the investigators were looking for guidance and assistance. To work around this, I had to use the internal expertise we had on the team – I spoke at length with various team members to understand the issues and how to work through them. Even today, I still use this internal knowledge – again, why not? They have their expertise, and I have mine.”
18 months ago, Luke was presented with the opportunity to purchase the business. This further created challenges as he and CFO and fellow business partner, Danielle were still reporting to the owners but trying to go through the process of buying them out. Decisions that Luke and Danielle were making were potentially going to have long-term impacts when they purchased the business. On both sides, there was a lot of frustration at times, but they worked through it and settled the sale in March this year.
Now, Luke is settling into the new normal following the pandemic with Danielle – that’s owning the business while navigating through the challenges the pandemic keeps throwing their way. A big focus for the company at the moment is heavy exploration of new technology such as virtual reality to complement its training, as well as looking at strategic partnerships, considering companies that provide products, services, or target market areas which complement its own, and those with which it can mutually grow.