Safety Debates Are Pointless: Belief

The internet is easier to get lost in than my wife’s purse…

A few days ago I did some routine blood work. It so happens that my wife works for my doctor. That is both a blessing and a terrible curse, because I have taught her how to be mean and dark like me.

“Your blood came back positive,” I heard her say. Color rushed out of my face as my mind began to race.

“For what?” I asked, hiding my mounting fear.

“Cocaine,” she answered. I waited for her to break back in and tell me she was kidding, but she didn’t.

“HOW? That’s not even… How?” I asked. Finally she burst into laughter.

“I’m getting really good at that. I was convincing wasn’t I?” She chucked. “We didn’t even test for that, dummy. Doc want’s to talk to you about your creatinine levels though. I can squeeze you in at 4:30 today.”

In the end I was scolded for not hydrating adequately and given an otherwise good report. That didn’t stop me from going down the rabbit hole on Web M.D. and convincing myself that I was in moderate renal failure. By the time 4:30 rolled around I was actively talking myself off the ledge of panic by willing myself to “believe” there was nothing wrong with me.

Then enlightenment struck

Call it fatalist, but I suddenly realized that no amount of belief would magically change my test results. The only thing I was doing was raising my blood pressure and giving myself nausea. I’d had a really good lunch, too, so it would have been a shame to loose it.

In that moment it occurred to me that we do the same in the safety profession. Even to the extent that it causes physical stress similar to what I was experiencing. We passionately, vehemently, sometimes even harmfully proclaiming belief in things to the point that people’s perception of us (and the safety profession) becomes negative. In essence, we become radicals rather than resources. I’m sure you can sense where I’m going with this.

All accidents are preventable – no they aren’t – yes they are – no they…

I challenge you to find a safety forum on LinkedIn where that debate doesn’t come up at least 17 times. It’s rampant. There are two camps, they both have what they believe are logical arguments, and they will likely never agree. That’s fine. Ours is a philosophical field by nature. But often we forget that people come before philosophy.

Just consider this one question: If there is just one worker on your site who could never be convinced that “all accidents are preventable,” is that mantra even worth saying to him/her? I wonder how much more progress we could make if we kept our beliefs to ourselves and instead tried to demonstrate them through our actions.

What do you think?