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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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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.

Ready to elevate your communication capacity?

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>>

WHS training subsidies available for QLD building and construction industry

WHS training subsidies available for QLD building and construction industry

Workplace Dimensions is a proud recipient of Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) funding, and is offering eligible participants funded places in our highly rated BSB41415 Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety and BSB51315 Diploma of Work Health and Safety.

CSQ funding supports employers, workers, apprentices and career seekers in the building and construction industry.

Subsidised WHS training is available to anyone ‘on the tools’, including relevant clerical, administration or professional roles within the Queensland building and construction industry who meet the eligibility criteria.

We are delivering programs in Brisbane, Cairns, Rockhampton, Ravenshoe and Townsville.

“Even if you’ve worked in the industry for years, ongoing training is important. In this Certificate course, participants learn not only how to keep themselves and their mates safe on site, but also how to set up WHS systems, assist responding to incidents on site if they do happen, comply with WHS laws, and how to create a workplace where everyone feels they can speak up to make the workplace a safer place”, says Paula Tabone from Workplace Dimensions.

“Some tradies may not have been in a classroom for years. They can relax, our facilitators are from the real world of industry,” says Paula.

“Eligibility is pretty straight forward,” says Ms Tabone, “It covers Queensland tradies, admin and professional industry staff. Tradies need to be working on the tools for 50% of their time, have worked for at least 1 month in the building and construction industry and be an Australian or NZ citizen or hold a permanent resident visa. If you’ve been unemployed for up to 6 months, you could still be eligible.”

Participants will need to pay a refundable deposit.

“If your company has 10 or more people who are eligible for the funding, we’ll come out and train you on your site,” says Ms Tabone.

Public programs are available in Brisbane, Cairns, Rockhampton, Ravenshoe and Townsville.

You could be eligible for subsidised WHS training in QLD.

Workplace Dimensions is a proud recipient of Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) funding, and is offering eligible participants funded places in our highly-rated BSB41415 Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety and BSB51315 Diploma of Work Health and Safety.

You can join a public program or, subject to minimum numbers, we can train anywhere in Australia.
Call 1300 453 555 or email

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How you can run an effective toolbox/pre-start meeting

How you can run an effective toolbox/pre-start meeting

Toolbox or pre-starts talks are interactive safety sessions that help focus a workforce on safety. They take place prior to the beginning of a work shift and they are an opportunity for an organisation to ensure that its entire workforce is fit for duty.

Alternatively, toolbox and pre-start meetings can be a deadly-dull talkfest, with team members tuned out and bored, which ultimately represents a waste of everyone’s time.

If it’s your job to run the toolbox or pre-start meetings, we’ve compiled these six handy tips to help you ensure that your meetings are a great investment of time and remain an effective way to convey your safety messaging to the rest of the team.

1. Engagement is key

If it’s your job to run the meeting, it is on you to give your audience a reason to pay attention. The good news is that ensuring audience engagement is a technique that you can master.

Engagement is the combined result of your content (how interesting and relevant it is) and how the meeting is managed. Managing a meeting well involves planning ahead of time, careful selection of fresh content, as well as your delivery style – all of which are discussed below.

2. Plan your meeting ahead of time

Toolbox or pre-start meetings should be brief and held regularly. Many workplaces hold pre-starts daily and toolboxes weekly, although if you have a high, constant rotation of contractors coming in and out of your workplace, you might consider holding more frequent meetings. They usually last up to 15 minutes in duration.

First, draw up an agenda. Items to plan for include your goals of the meeting, the list of topics you’ll cover, when and where it will be held, and make sure you allow time for contractors and workers to provide feedback on any workplace health and safety issues they have. While some organisations have templates, there is nothing wrong with mixing up the order to keep things fresh.

Familiarise yourself with your topic. When you know your material well, you’ll be more relaxed when talking about it and curly questions won’t throw you off easily either.

Finally, you should plan for how you’ll get your meeting back on track if it wanders off-course. If you’re faced with someone who keeps interrupting, be direct and firm that the meeting has to move forward, and let them know you are open to discussing the issue with them after the meeting has ended.

3. Be clear what you’re trying to achieve

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else. Like all meetings, you need to be clear about what you’re trying to achieve and share this information with people attending your toolbox/pre-start meeting.

Often, people use these meetings to encourage behavioural change. If this applies to you, what questions might you ask your colleagues and team members? What other important points can be raised? What techniques will you use to keep the engagement levels up?

Reinforce your key messages. You can check how well your messaging is understood by asking your participants to repeat back information or give you examples of what your meeting covered, for example, hazards and how to avoid them. Towards the end of your meeting, do a wrap-up to reinforce important safety points.

4. Mix up your content

The point of a toolbox/pre-start meeting is to share timely and important information about the workplace, safety and other topics that might affect your audience. Content might include specific job safety instructions, changes in job procedures and work practice, changes in rules, processes and regulations, equipment, client expectations and other relevant information.

Give examples of experiences you and others might have had that help focus the topics so they are directly relevant to the work everyone does and demonstrate your points by incorporating interactivity. For example, ask “Who else has experienced something similar?”, or “What effect would that have on us?” While statistics are good, stories are even better.

Avoid repetition. Repeating yourself over and over leads to disengagement by your audience.

Consider opening your meeting with positive feedback. Are there safety role models or actions taken that can be singled out for recognition? You’ll create a great first impression by recognising team members who have actively worked to keep their workplace safe. A simple certificate, printed in-house, and delivered in front of their peers can be a very powerful symbol and reinforce to everyone the priority the organisation places on safety.

Using examples and real equipment makes safety more tangible and engaging.

Think ahead about your method of delivery  – keeping messages positive and mixing up your content helps engagement.

5. Your delivery style does make a difference

Keeping your presentation style informal, positive and conversational will help enormously with ensuring the effectiveness of your toolbox meeting. Make and keep eye contact – and never just read to people. Nothing is more boring than being read to for any length of time.

Nobody wants to be “talked at” either, so encourage participation from others to keep the meeting interactive. Asking open-ended questions is a great way to get others talking (what and how are great question starters). Another tip is to ask questions early while everyone is still fresh. Keep your language simple and short, and avoid industry jargon and slang.

By letting others contribute, while you nod or smile in acknowledgement, you’ll encourage further discussion that leads to positive change. If it’s relevant, you can always ask for more information from participants to keep the discussion moving forward and, because you’ve carefully planned your meeting, you will have strategies up your sleeve to take back control if the meeting wanders off-course.

Finally, practice ahead of time so that you are feeling extra confident about your delivery.

6. Consider rotating the meeting management role

Increasingly in organisations, everyone is considered a safety leader. Some organisations use this principle as the basis for rotating the role of toolbox or pre-start meeting leader amongst different team members. This might be a great way to reinforce safety leadership at an individual level, develop an appreciation for the effort that goes into planning and managing a toolbox meeting, and encourage everyone to learn valuable leadership skills. It also provides a direct incentive to everyone to pay attention in toolbox meetings, so that they are prepared when it’s their turn.

By mixing up who delivers toolbox or pre-start meetings, you take advantage of individual approaches and perspectives, and allow for innovation by different team members. While one person might be interested in structure, another might be interested in statistics and so a natural by-product of rotating the role is that content remains fresh and engaging.

Want to elevate your Toolbox Talks?

Effective Safety Consultation Program

This program focuses on helping participants generate genuine two-way communication.

Get the skills to:

  • Conduct effective and engaging Toolbox Talks, Pre-Start and safety meetings
  • Gain employees’ and team members’ attention and get them motivated about safety
  • Learn how to overcome potential barriers to achieve engaged participation
  • Ensure others don’t just hear, but understand safety messages
  • Show confidence as a communicator and leader
  • Apply effective consultation skills to all meetings

Download the course outline (page 9) in our full course brochure here >>

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How to create cohesiveness in major projects

How to create cohesiveness in major projects

Being part of a major project is an exciting, medium-term commercial opportunity for businesses of all sizes in Australia. Typically, a major contract is won by a large contractor or consortium, which then enters into commercial agreements with many subcontractor businesses, thus providing employment to hundreds (even thousands) of workers over a multi-year period.

Executing a major project has many challenges. Among them is taking a large, diverse team of skilled workers, often drawn from markedly different organisations, and creating the conditions where they come together to think, work, behave and collaborate as one. This cohesiveness is not easy to achieve considering every organisation brings in its own different processes and policies, which may need to be set aside in order to properly comply with site rules.

Setting up workers for project success

For workers employed as contractors in a project, they need to represent their employer well so that their employer is rehired for other projects. To do this, though, you need to prepare teams so that they clearly know where they fit in and what the head contractor’s expectations will be.

To set up workers for success, we’ve identified five key factors that help organisations to transition workers into their best representatives on a major project.

  1. Let your workers know how you’d like them to represent your company.
  2. Create a shared goal and help workers understand their role in achieving it.
  3. Help workers understand the balance between requirements, policies and processes of head contractor versus their own.
  4. Work with your team to bridge any gaps between your policies, and processes – and that of your head contractor.
  5. Make sure everyone understands the benefits of collaboration and cohesiveness.

Three tips for head contractors

If you are the head contractor, how do you best manage sub-contractors? We think these two factors are important:

  1. Let your subcontractors know your expectations regarding how they represent their organisation within a sub-contractor status.
  2. Clarify your expectations of all employees by explaining what’s in it for them and with information about how to conduct themselves.

It’s not difficult to manage your workers moving from project to project with different contractors.

Most teams want to perform well and represent their employer to the best of their ability. From their perspective, good performance improves the opportunity for their employer to be hired on subsequent projects.

By providing your teams with an understanding of the above, the bigger picture, your expectations and where they fit into ithem, workers will soon understand what to look for and how to behave on each and every project.

Want to learn how to manage subcontractors?

Learn to effectively manage WHS site risks and performance by learning how to effectively select, manage and monitor the complex and difficult world of subcontractors.

Find out more by downloading the course outline below, contact us here or call us on 1300 453 555.

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Leading change: How leaders can foster the embrace of change

Leading change: How leaders can foster the embrace of change

From the chrysalis, the beautiful butterfly is born. From the acorn, the mighty oak grows. Change is one of the few certainties in your life. It can be unexpected. It can feel disorientating and unwelcome, it creates disruption and pushes us out of our comfort zones. It can lead people to feel afraid of what the future holds.

Rather than resisting change, which is often futile anyway, people that have learned to embrace change are often better able to capitalise on the opportunities that inevitably follow in change’s footsteps.

In this article, we list 3 good reasons why people should embrace change as an important trigger for personal and professional growth – and how leaders can create the environment where change is embraced.

Reason 1. Embracing change is less stressful than fighting it

As an individual, you might not like all changes that come your way. This too is a fact of life. Instead of looking at change in fear, turn your thinking to the opportunities that follow in change’s wake. Every change is a turning point – you may not be able to control your environment and the change that goes on within it, but you can control how you manage it.

As a leader, you need to set the expectation with your team that change is inevitable. By setting expectations early, you avoid team members from feeling blindsided when change occurs. If you set your vision as a dynamic, evolving organisation, your team will be better prepared for shifts that happen.

Reason 2. Change can be habit forming.

At an individual level, every time something in your life changes, so do you. Who wants to live a completely staid, predictable and boring life? Progress is the outcome of change, not standing still. People that manage change well, especially career or role changes, understand that each change brings new skills, new knowledge and new opportunities. The days of staying in one job for life are long gone. Whether you change within your company, or move to another, there is no negative stigma these days with pursuing a career that is in line with your interests, values and skills.

As a leader, it’s important to be honest with your team. Even when change is positive, your team will immediately think “how will this affect me?” If the change is negative, don’t pretend it’s positive because your team will see straight through it. Give your team time to absorb the changes being undertaken and invite them to ask questions. It will take time to move the team in line with change, especially if it’s difficult changes that are being implemented.

Reason 3. Change can be habit forming.

Travellers learn to embrace diverse cultures, changing the way they see the world. Their mind is expanded by these new experiences and the “travel bug” is simply the habit of wanting more of it.

People that experience change more regularly learn flexibility, adaptability and to prioritise change as a positive way to build experiences, knowledge and skills. In other words, the more you experience change, the more you get used to it. Just as habit is the result of a repetitive situation, when change is a normal part of a team’s working life, they are more likely to embrace it.

As a leader, you work in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. Leaders who can plan for change and remain dynamic, and who listen to and adapt quickly to a changing environment, are the ones who remain successful.

How Leaders can prepare for change

The process of change can be highly disruptive in the workplace. Knowing the predictable reactions to change and how to prepare for them can significantly reduce both the distraction and the negative impacts of change and improve the engagement and uptake of all those affected.

Our sister division Leadership Dimensions offers a 2-day program on Leading Others Through Change that covers human reactions to change, consistent messaging, how to support fearful staff and more.

Download the course outline: Leading Others Through Change >>

In planning change initiatives, it is important to consider the time it takes for people to transition, to learn new skills and to move through the emotional journey associated with change. Change can feel overwhelming and leave people feeling exhausted.

Leadership Dimensions offers a 2-day program on Preventing Change Fatigue that covers identifying the symptoms of change fatigue, planning for the impacts of change, developing personal coping mechanisms and more.

Download the course outline: Preventing Change Fatigue >>

When change is transformational, organisations experience a fundamental shift in “how things are done around here”. Engagement, buy-in and behavioural change are key to the change success.

Leadership Dimensions offers a 2-day program on Building Commitment to Cultural Transformation that covers the readiness for change, influencing skills, cultural change process and tools, engaging hearts and minds and more.

Download the course outline: Building Commitment to Cultural Transformation >>

Visit Leadership Dimensions

Want to elevate your leadership capacity?

Safety Dimensions offers accredited and non-accredited leadership training for emerging leaders. Through our training, you’ll learn how to effectively communicate, set clear priorities, build team cohesiveness and implement operational plans and continuous improvement.

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

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