Healthy Unease

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26 Mar 2024
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In safety management systems, healthy unease suggests a mindset that is not complacent or overly confident but rather continuously alert to the possibility of accidents or errors due to changing and evolving circumstances and situations.

Healthy unease recognises the simple factor that we can never get comfortable in the safety-critical sector. We can never think, 'It won't happen to me...'

The project

Recently we teamed up with Vantage Drilling to create an 8 minute animated and insightful dive into the world of healthy unease, and the importance of applying the concept within the drilling sector.

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All projects have their problematic areas, it’s about overcoming them, challenging the approach and thinking outside the box, and that’s when we’re at our best. We don’t do easy, that would be…well…easy.

The tricky ground with this particular project came with the fact that this was a concept. Healthy unease isn’t tangible, you can’t grab it – it’s not a piece of equipment or a linear process. For that reason we couldn’t lean on photos of the rig, the top drive, the derrick…it all had to be thought up and conceptualised.

But credit where credit is due, Vantage Drilling are great to work with. They came to us with ideas, concepts and reference material – enabling us to see the kind of angle they wanted to approach this topic from and how they wanted their workforce to receive it.


Thinking fast and slow 

One such concept was to encourage people to simply slow down, act slower and think slower, enabling their healthy unease to kick in and take everything onboard. The idea was to encourage people to engage their brain before their hands, and think things through.

Brain training

To hammer this point home we used some neat brain training games. We asked people to undertake some (what appeared to be) simple calculations. We knew that people would engage their fast thinking brains and jump to an answer, and often it was the wrong one. Getting the wrong answer was exactly what we wanted, as we needed people to open up and be receptive to the concept.


The car analogy

We also used some other techniques to deliver the messaging. We used the good old car analogy. Most people either own a car or are in one regularly, so the car is very relatable.

When your car makes a strange noise, or an engine light flashes on momentarily, you’re inclined to ignore it and hope it goes away. And sometimes it does. But, not in all cases. Because sometimes things go horribly wrong and it not only costs a fortune, but also puts people in harms way.


The exact same concept applies to life in the safety-critical sector. The strange rattle or engine light could be on a mud pump, perhaps a pressure gauge is reading slightly higher than normal or a valve stem is weeping fluid. These are all ‘weak signals’ that need to be addressed before they escalate.

And that’s the concept of healthy unease. It’s about maintaining that vigilance and sweating the small stuff. It’s about raising an issue if you think there might be one, and not ignoring it.


Healthy unease means you never really stop looking around and asking ‘what if’ questions.

It encourages us to push for answers and seek solutions, and ultimately it can help prevent accidents and improve overall safety performance by simply staying vigilant and taking appropriate precautions.

More info

Do you need less box ticking training and more outside of the box thinking? If so, reach out here, and let’s talk.

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