Head of WHS&E

PhD. Organisational Psychology; M. Arts in Psychology; Grad Dip. Safety Science; Dip. Building & Construction(PM); Dip. Lifting Operations

Don’s array of qualifications & over 25 years of industry experience allow him to successfully lead Growthbuilt’s WHS&E teams. In addition to these qualifications, Don is a certified ICAM investigator and Lead Auditor (ISO 9001) as well as being a Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia (FSIA) and a Fellow of the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (UK) (FIIRSM).

With strong knowledge of the multiple industry sectors, Don effectively drives safety outcomes throughout the business, continuously driving improvement in these areas.

Connect with Don on LinkedIn +

Back to People

There’s an App for that! 

Lessons learned in developing a Safety App.

Growthbuilt is a construction company operating out of Sydney NSW headquarters to provide a comprehensive range of design, construction, development and site management services across the public and private sectors for both commercial, and residential projects.

In 2020, Growthbuilt entered into an Enforceable Undertaking Agreement with the Regulator, SafeWork NSW, following an incident that occurred on a construction site in 2016.

One of the initiatives in this agreement was:

  1. To adopt and roll out the Positive Investigation Methodology (PIM) as part of Growthbuilt’s internal investigation processes following any work health and safety related incidents.
  2. To provide training to Growthbuilt’s workers on PIM investigations, and
  3. To develop a smartphone application (PIM App) to facilitate the implementation of PIM

Mobile apps offer various benefits. Three significant ones are:

  1. Convenience and Accessibility:
    • Mobile apps provide users with the convenience of accessing information or services anytime and anywhere, as long as they have their mobile devices with them. This accessibility is crucial in today’s fast-paced world, where people rely heavily on their smartphones for various tasks.
  2. Enhanced User Experience:
    • Well-designed mobile apps can offer a smoother and more personalised user experience compared to mobile websites. Apps can take advantage of device features such as GPS, camera, and push notifications to provide a more interactive and engaging experience. Additionally, apps can be optimised for performance, leading to faster load times and better responsiveness.
  3. Offline Functionality:
    • Many mobile apps offer offline functionality, allowing users to access certain features or content even when they are not connected to the internet. This is particularly valuable in situations where a stable internet connection is not guaranteed, such as during travel or in areas with poor network coverage. Offline capabilities enhance the utility of the app and contribute to a better user experience.

However, while these are three key benefits, it’s important to note that the advantages of mobile apps can vary depending on the specific goals and functionalities of the application. Businesses and developers often consider factors such as user engagement, brand loyalty, and revenue generation when assessing the overall impact and success of a mobile app.

The PIM App was created by a company called Chocolate Coded based on the methodology developed by Michael Tooma – who was Managing Partner Clyde & Co., a world renown WHS Leading Lawyer (expert) and author.

PIM considers what went right by focusing on which factors allowed the potential injury causing incident to become ‘harmless’ (in the sense of causing no injury or harm). That is, it attempts to uncover what went right to avoid the incident’s negative potential.

In summary the PIM Methodology looks at the following 6 steps:

  1. Identify what happened
  2. Look for factors that meant that the incident did not resolve in further harm
  3. Alternatively, identify what could have happened
  4. Ask what went right that prevented the incident from causing serious injury or damage
  5. Test to see if it can be used to avoid a similar incident in the future by asking:
  • What if the consequences were different?
  • What if the process/system was different?
  • What if the environment was different?
  • What if the plant was different?
  • What if the operator was different?
  1. Ask how we can systematise the learnings to repeat the success.

Previously, the above steps were covered in a paper-based form, with the information gathered being used to complete an investigation report with recommendations.

Therefore, the main outcome of this initiative was to develop an App which would capture this information (digitalised format) and provide a report. An added benefit would be that information could be collected on the site of the incident, stored, and accessed as required by the investigator to complete the investigation report.

At the time of the drafting of the Enforceable Undertaking (EU) proposal, Growthbuilt had experienced 9 notifiable incidents and 13 near misses (2018).

In adopting PIM, Growthbuilt would supplement existing investigation processes by also focusing on what went right to avoid a fatality or serious injury before one occurs, thereby ensuring processes are in place to continually improve Growthbuilt’s Integrated Management System (IMS) to eliminate and minimise risks to health and safety (in line with SafeWork NSW’s “Building and Construction Sector Plan to 2022”).

By the time the EU was approved in March 2020, and the development of the App commenced, Australia was being ravaged by COVID (during 2020-2022) which had a drastic impact on construction activity within Growthbuilt and many other construction companies.  Subsequently, many Projects went on ‘hold’, many delayed, and workforce numbers severely affected. There were limited hours worked across numerous projects. This was further complicated by adverse weather conditions impacting NSW from Dec 21- Jul 22.

A working group was established with members from Growthbuilt HSE, the developer, legal practitioner and representatives from the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (who would be the ultimate custodians of the PIM App).

Following trialing, training, and User Acceptance Testing, the PIM App was released to the world as free shareware (Android & IOS) in September 2021, after an investment of just over $200,000.

From this time to September 2022 there were 2 Notifiable Incidents and only 4 Near Misses in Growthbuilt. These were all investigated using the PIM App and reports completed. This sample size was not significant enough to identify either the success or failure of the App. As Growthbuilt was granted an extension of time for trialing the App, the Growthbuilt HSE Team completed PIM investigations on Near Misses and all MTI (Medical Treatment Incidents) up to September 2023. As a result, more than 40 investigation reports were completed by the HSE Team on Near Misses and Medical Treatment Injuries using the methodology.

Realistically, the PIM App had not had the best opportunity to be implemented during the term of the EU, with take up of the App stagnating notwithstanding the efforts in promoting the App.

Lessons Learned

  1. Whilst the Positive Investigation Methodology is sound, the App itself was still ‘clunky’ in its functionality, (ie data from a mobile App needed to be transferred to a PC/laptop for further manual manipulation in order to produce a report).
  2. There were no automated analytics that would produce recommendations, or solutions e.g. corrective actions as a result of using the App. The final product relied on the interpretation of the person collating the information to come up with a conclusion.
  3. Due to this requirement of interpreting the data collected by the user in order to complete a report, not all users would have the skills, knowledge or experience to complete this activity. This is unfortunate, as one of the aims of releasing the App (to the world) would be that it could be used across a multitude of industries by persons who were not necessarily trained as HSE professionals.

These main points could have been a result of the working group not:

  1. Being fully versed and competent with the workings of the methodology (what is the optimum outcome that we wanted the App to achieve)
  2. Not fully understanding the costs involved in developing a Mobile App. The budget was set, therefore we got what we could afford. It was not just a process of converting a paper form into a digitalised form. (rule of thumb suggests – add at least another 50%)
  3. During UAT there were many suggestions provided on how to improve the App but timeframes and budgets were limited. (anecdotally, discussions held with the developer a year after release of the App, indicated that the quirks identified could all be resolved if we were prepared to spend more).


The aim of this initiative was to provide industry with an alternative method of investigating incidents and serious near misses. This was achieved.

For Growthbuilt, the PIM was an additional tool which could be used for looking at near misses, something that is often overlooked in the safety space. However, when discussing outcomes with the team, they reported that they would have reached the same or similar conclusion if they were using their existing tools and experience.

Unfortunately, this forms a bias from WHS professionals, as one of the purposes of developing the App, was to make it available to non WHS trained persons, so it would guide them through a process of investigation.  In other words, any lay person, from any industry could use the PIM App and come up with a conclusion and recommendation in their reports.

There was no data available showing that the App was used by persons outside the WHS profession, and in its current form, the App would not produce the desired results for this cohort. This is seen as an opportunity for future iterations of the App.

During the handover meeting between the developer and the new custodian (AIHS), it was identified that discussions will continue regarding the future potential of the PIM App.