Safety’s An Echo Chamber

When I was a kid, one of the perks of visiting my Grandparents was the fact they had cable. When my brother and I would stay with them, that meant we got to watch all kinds of things we couldn’t with pull out of the by extending our tv’s rabbit ears with foil and standing in the one perfect spot in the corner of our living room. It was mostly a treat (unless my Grandpa was sleeping… uh, “watching” a Dodger’s game in his chair).

Except for the time we watched “Kingdom of the Spiders” when I was five, Saturday nights were the most fun. Tradition was we would watch whatever made-for-tv movie happened to be on. One that I remember pretty vividly was “Get Smart, Again!” from 1989. In it Maxwell and Cmdr. Drury enter the Hall of Hush where no words can be heard. Instead, everything one speaks becomes text that fills the air in the room:

As you can see from the clip, Snapchat style texting had yet to be invented. Truth be told, I don’t remember much of the movie aside from that scene. But with so much subtext, it’s easy to see why it stuck. The idea of needing to eat your words is something that pops into my mind frequently when I think about some of the things safety people say (and to be fair, even myself sometimes).  

Are we just talking to ourselves?

Last week at the blockbuster Safety Connect Virtual Extravaganza I had the privilege, along with my podcast cohosts Abby Ferri and Jason Lucas, to host a three day Zoom lounge for all of the conference attendees. It was equally surreal, exciting, fun, and exhausting to sit in front of a webcam for 30+ hours (insert the inappropriate joke in your head here) just talking to whoever joined the room. In all the weirdness of 2020, though, I can’t say it wasn’t appropriate. What struck me most was the random eb and flow from serious conversation to laughing and joking. It was about as apt a gathering as you could hope for this year.

One conversation came from one of the conference attendees and was directed at us as podcasters, specifically ones who talk about safety. She had noticed a trend recently throughout similar shows where hosts and guests would cycle through each other’s various podcast interviewing on one show and then switching places and being interviewed. Her question was if the three of us thought there was a danger in that strategy.

And then I replied...

Rather than answer, let me explain where my head is on this. Safety Professionals are meant to advise and consult. We’re intended to be a resource to people performing hard, often dangerous work. To help them solve problems so that they can complete their work with minimal damage to themselves, others, and the environment in which we live.

If that is truly our goal, how much sense does it make to get into our own Hall of Hush, where only those who share the room can benefit from our knowledge?

It’s time for safety to step outside of the box it’s constructed for itself and share our knowledge with others. Who knows, we might even learn a few things ourselves when we do.