At the end of October, for Safework NSW’s Consultation@Work Conference, we presented a consultation best practice workshop. Participants included workers and health safety representatives from around the state, and we were assisted by Health and Safety Inspectors who guided conversations with their expert knowledge.

The workshop was developed over several meetings with inspectors and Safework NSW staff. In these meetings we linked systems science to issues of workplace health and safety, and built a narrative featuring a workplace incident and characters occupying different roles in a factory. We wanted to present decisions that were hard to make, and scenarios that would provoke discussion.

Throughout the workshop, participants took part in several games responding to the events in the narrative – prioritising workplace values, managing a safe factory floor, and responding to a crisis. The narrative and games served as a reference point for conversations with the inspectors, where participants could respond to the narrative, discuss their own experiences, and develop strategies for better consultation practice in their own workplace.

We took elements of previous games, including Best Festival Ever and Run A Bank, and tried to pack a narrative and repeated games into a tight 60 minutes. Another challenge was building the workshop for over 100 people across 18 tables, but with the tables working towards a common goal. We designated the tables as Workers, Managers, and Health Safety Reps, and led them through some games that were just for the table, and other games where collaboration and consultation with other tables was crucial for success. The tables also provided an opportunity for people to role-play to a particular perspective.

It was interesting seeing people take on roles in a workplace they don’t usually occupy. One table was characterised as managers and clearly justified their priorities early on, before reflecting after the game that were they to play again they would reverse them completely. We noticed the ultimate goal stay the same between tables – the goal of safety in the workplace – but the strategies to get there were different, and those strategies were all based on different perspectives. The inspectors did a wonderful job of unpacking these experiences in the context of safety regulation and workplace culture.

Working with Safework NSW was an exciting opportunity to adapt our games and skills to a new setting, and work directly with experts in a field with which we don’t have much experience. Like many of our processes, this development was all about listening and finding games to communicate stories from a group of experts. On the day the participants played hard, only suffered a few minor disasters, and had animated discussions rich in experience and passion. Plus Nathan got to meet Adam Spencer.

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