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What Do Van Halen & Brown M&M’s Have To Do With Safety?

What Do Van Halen & Brown M&M’s Have To Do With Safety?

Van Halen’s Brown M&Ms –
Their Key To Rock and Roll Safety

There’s a long tradition of musicians and actors adding in absurd demands in their performance contracts just because they could.

Van Halen, the American hair rock band of the 80’s were infamous for this inclusion in their contract, Article 126, “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”

For years this clause was seen as a frivolous and ego-maniacal expression of the rock and roll lifestyle.

In his book, Crazy From the Heat, original front man David Lee Roth explains that the request was actually a quick safety assessment. With tonnes of stage equipment, high powered electronics, pyrotechnics and large crowds, the humble brown M&M was a warning signal to see if the stagehands had been paying attention to each detail of the written contract to ensure the safety of the band, crew and audience.

Watch the David Lee Roth speaking about the Van Halen Brown M&M clause:

Lee Roth writes:
“Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. We’d pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors, whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through. The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function.

mm1So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say ‘Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes…’ And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: ‘There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.’

So I would walk backstage, if I saw brown M&M’s in that bowl…..well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening”

Dan and Chip Heath’s book, Decisive, How to make better decisions in life and work they summarise that “David Lee Roth was no diva; he was an operations master. In Van Halen’s world, a brown M&M was a tripwire.”

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Ready to train your people in hazard identification and risk management?

We have a range of programs that will train your people in hazard identification and risk management which we can tailor specifically to your industry organisational needs.

Training can be taken as individual training program (download all our course outlines here or the individual topics below) as part of one of our accredited programs:

10604NAT Certificate IV in Safety Leadership (WHS) – Construction

BSB41415 Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety

BSB51315 Diploma of Work Health and Safety


 Risk Assessment including hazard identification, risk analysis.

This program helps you identify and describe the difference between a hazard and a risk and introduces a way of thinking about hazard identification and risk management as an everyday activity. It enhances the skills and capabilities of leaders in the areas of hazard identification, risk analysis and identification, and how to implement appropriate risk controls.



Participate In Incident Investigations.

This program gives participants the mind set and skill set to undertake or assist in incident investigations, including how to identify and ensure all evidence and facts related to an incident  (or near-miss) are understood, sequenced and analysed.

Coach others to use best practice safety thinking when investigating near misses, high potential incidents and other critical events.



Manage Incident Investigations.

This program develops your skills to determine the requirements, protocols and processes of managing a post incident response, including leading others to gather evidence effectively, identifying the real causal factors of an incident, corrective and preventative actions and overseeing appropriate reporting, monitoring and reviews.


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Working well: An organisational approach to preventing psychological injury

Working well: An organisational approach to preventing psychological injury

Download Now:

Comcare Publication
Working Well:
An Organisational Approach To Preventing Psychological Injury


Source: Comcare.

Many employees will at times feel that they are not coping well at work for a variety of reasons.
Some of these employees will experience some degree of stress as a result. While many people have strategies to deal with these situations, work-related stress becomes a concern where it is intense or sustained for such a time that it causes ill-health, psychological injury and workers’ compensation claims. Where significant numbers of employees experience the effects of stress at work, the problem can assume organisational proportions. Stress that has such harmful effects is now being recognised as a major workplace issue with significant costs for organisations, individuals and their families.

The factors that contribute to a psychological injury are many, and different prevention strategies may be required, depending on the factors prevailing in the particular organisation, workplace or work team. This publication from Comcare provides information to assist Australian government organisations to design and implement strategies to manage work-related stress and prevent psychological injury.  It provides information on the major causes of stress and psychological injury. It also covers evidence-based interventions for minimising the adverse impact of these factors, as indicated by international and Australian research and analysis of Comcare claims data.

Comcare recommends that agencies adopt a systematic and structured approach to occupational health and safety (OHS) risk management.

A four step process to risk management is recommended, involving:

1.Identifying the sources of potential harm to employee health and wellbeing.

2. Systematically assessing the risk of employees being harmed.

3.Developing and implementing a plan to:
a) address the workplace factors that are risks of psychological injury (primary intervention);
b) minimise the impact of stress on employees (secondary intervention);
c) provide safe and effective rehabilitation and return to work for individuals once an injury has occurred (tertiary intervention); and

4. Monitoring and reviewing the implementation and effectiveness of interventions against agreed performance indicators and targets to ensure continuous improvement.

Source:  Comcare

Download Now:

Comcare Publication
Working Well:
An Organisational Approach To Preventing Psychological Injury


Stay safe in the Christmas lead-up

Stay safe in the Christmas lead-up

With the festive season approaching, making sure everyone remains safe becomes even more important. When people are most tired from the year that’s coming to an end, Australia typically sees a spike in workplace accidents and incidences. Serious incidences can leave families, friends, colleagues and communities devastated instead of celebrating the end to the year and the summer holidays.

Everyone is responsible for safety, but if you’re a leader, it’s is a great time to reflect on the roles and responsibilities of your managers, supervisors and employees to prioritise safety during this period. With increased trading hours and activity, coupled with closing deadlines, shortcuts might be taken that increase the chance of injury.

Regardless of your role, follow our 6 Christmas safety tips to stay safe during the festive season.


Welcome to the silly season. With the dash to the Christmas holidays, you’re sure to have a full social calendar filled with end of year events. You might also be feeling the stress of tying projects up at work. By planning out the next few weeks, you can properly allocate time and leave a buffer for when things don’t go to plan. You’ll get visibility on what you need to do, by when, and know where you may be stretching yourself too thin. 


While many workers appreciate the necessity of wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) while at work, even if you’re in a rush to get things finished, you must wear your personal protective equipment. Not wearing PPE can be catastrophic for both you and your employer. Some health problems take years of exposure to develop and by the time you understand the risk, it could be too late.


A main reason for so many workplace incidences occurring in November and December is the rush most of us are in to complete things before year end. Because we’re under time pressure, we are more likely to cut corners. Cutting corners is workplace behaviour that can easily result in serious injury. By skipping or avoiding steps important to a task, in order to complete the task sooner, you can dramatically increase your safety risk. 


Many people feel exhausted, just living their life. By asking for help, you can lighten your load a little. Asking for help when you need it delivers you with real benefits including relationship and network building, happiness giving, stress relief and overall better health and improved productivity. 


Further to the theme of asking for help, it’s important to help each other. By working as a team, you can increase collaboration, lessen individual workloads, thus reducing individual stress, and improve productivity. Two or more people can share the problem solving, finishing off difficult tasks and brainstorm creative ideas.


It’s the season of Christmas parties, and the best way to make sure everyone remains safe, is to be careful how you handle alcohol, make sure everyone has transport to get home safely, and everyone looks out for each other. You also need to make sure that any party venues are free of hazards that could lead to an accident or injury. 

If it’s a work function, Section 19 of the WHS Act requires employers to ‘take all reasonably practicable steps to protect the health and safety at work of the employer’s employees’. This includes undertaking risk assessments and putting suitable risk controls in place to reduce or eliminate any risk associated with the function or event. Employers should also set clear  boundaries for employee’s behaviour at work related functions, set clear start and finish times for functions and have developed and communicated an internal policy addressing the responsible consumption of alcohol.

If you’re a leader, read more about your WHS responsibilities when it comes to work social functions here.

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Body stressing leading serious claim cause

Body stressing leading serious claim cause

Latest data from Safe Work Australia shows that the leading cause of serious claims (that result in one or more weeks off work) is body stressing. Of the total 106,260 claims that were made during the 2016-2017 reporting period, 40,330 or 38% related to body stressing.*

Typical body stressing injuries include muscle strains, back conditions, and tendonitis/tenosynovitis. Some work practices involving lifting, sustaining postures, and using repetitive movements may increase your risk. Recent research found that stress in the workplace may also directly influence your risk of body stressing injury.

Typical warning signs of body stress injuries include:

  • regular feelings of discomfort or pain
  • tired all the time/sick and run down
  • not getting things done at work
  • feeling overwhelmed by your workload
  • lacking in confidence or unable to concentrate
  • feeling stressed at work
  • needing to take extra time off work

How to avoid body stressing injuries:

It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure a safe workplace. There are several things you can do to reduce your personal risk of body stress injuries. These include:

  • Take regular breaks. Move around, especially if you have a sedentary job.
  • Seek assistance to establish a safe working environment.
  • Contribute to safe working practices by talking to your manager.
  • Talk to someone early if you are feeling the symptoms of body stressing.

There are excellent resources online. For example, you can download this handy Comcare guide to preventing body stressing injury.

*Source: Safe Work Australia

Ready to transform your safety culture?

Find out how we can help by calling us freecall (in Australia) on 1300 453 555,
Internationally on +613 9510 0477 or use our contact form.

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How to Listen in 8 Simple Steps

How to Listen in 8 Simple Steps

Good communication has long been regarded as a foundation skill of strong leaders. With communication skills, a leader can build trust and robust relationships. They can successfully develop their teams, improve results and influence others. Core to communication is mastering listening. Why do we all need to listen? Because this is the way we learn, understand, empathise, help and be entertained.

We’ve identified 8 simple steps to take to become a master listener!

Put away phones and laptops. Move to a quiet room with no distractions. Or even take a walk. It’s a great way to talk and listen.

Stay present in the conversation. Don’t let your mind drift to other things. Don’t forget to pay attention to body language – body language is all part of how we communicate with one another.

Imagine you’re walking in the other person’s shoes. Even though it can be hard, try seeing things from their point of view. By leaning slightly forward, the other person thinks you’re interested in hearing more.

When you look someone in the eye, it tells the other person that they have your undivided attention. Nodding your head also reiterates that you’re present in the conversation. Be aware not to fidget or slouch – this is body language that betrays boredom and disinterest. React to what the other person is saying, it shows you’re interested

When you interrupt, it shows you aren’t really listening. If you do interrupt, apologise immediately and ask the person to continue.

By asking questions, like “what happened next?” or by offering validation, such as “I agree”, you can move the conversation forward.

If you criticise someone, they won’t confide in you again. Even if you disagree with what the person is saying to you, stay non-judgemental. Once the person finishes speaking, you can calmly state your counterargument.

When it’s your turn to speak, be respectful but honest. Be polite. If you want to strengthen your relationship with the other person, offer your opinion and feelings in return.

Like these steps to becoming a master listener? Download the How to listen checklist to keep as a handy reference.

For more information on our leadership communication programs, visit our leadership programs page.

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Want a communication program customised for your workplace and industry?
Call 1300 453 555 or email

Find out more about BSB42015 Certificate IV in Leadership and Management>>

As heat rises, so do safety risks

As heat rises, so do safety risks

With summer fast approaching, it’s time to think about staying safe when you’re working in high temperatures. During hot temperatures, people become susceptible to a range of heat related medical issues, including dehydration, heat rash, heat cramps, fainting, heat exhaustion and even life-threatening heat stroke.

Heat illness occurs when the body cannot sufficiently cool itself. Factors that contribute to this include:

  • temperature
  • humidity
  • amount of air movement
  • radiant temperature of surroundings
  • clothing
  • physical activity (metabolic heat load)

We created a simple, useful first aid guide to heat related illnesses for you to download and keep.

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