Safety Isn’t Good (at) Business

Safety Isn’t Good (at) Business

Thanks to Dave Collins for this pic

But we’re really good at pointing at things…

You haven’t lived until you have a conversation like they one I’m about to share with you. To set the mood, let me take you back to 2008…

The Black Eyed Peas just told you that tonight’s gonna be a good night. You just texted your girlfriend from your Motorola Razr about the Spaghetti Cat bit you watched on The Soup last night. Then, as you set aside thoughts of redesigning your MySpace page, your boss walks over and gives you the news. Today is going to suck regardless of how tonight turns out.

The boss just informed you that your assignment for the day is to walk the contractor safety reps around a 2-million square foot construction site to show them safety hazards. More specifically, electrical ones.

This particular site had been deluged by unexpected monsoon weather and more than a few things were under water. As it happened, one of those “few” things just so happened to be… the entire bottom floor and basement of the facility. The GC on that job had bet on their expectations of good weather and begun finishing interiors before the building had a roof. They had lost in a MAJOR way. To say there was tension in the air would be… accurate.

And THEN… Safety arrived to save the day… point at extension cords

Some very concerned administrative folks who’d been riding along that morning on the Project Manager’s windshield tour of the damage had informed us that there were… wait for it… Extension cords sitting in water.

Now, I’m going to make light of this hazard for the rest of this post. I’m not going to say it wasn’t a real hazard, but seriously… bigger fish. If you’re not comfortable with that, I suggest you go listen to Episode 100 of the Drinkin’ Bros Podcast to find out what uncomfortable really feels like.

In general, the idea of extension cords being immersed in water, though not something I would advise, does not rank incredibly high on my pucker meter. I’m sure there will be more than a few who disagree with that, and that’s fine. You being wrong doesn’t change the message of this little story.

The issue in this story doesn’t have as much to do with the magnitude of the hazard as it does the reasoning for which the hazard needed to be removed. That reason, as you might guess, was “because OSHA said.” To the contractors who were already dealing with the water crisis in other ways that only meant diverting time and resources to something that just wasn’t the issue of the day. Safety hadn’t changed that opinion based on the four letter “O” word.

So, I spent the rest of that day (minus the 25 minute lunch break I took to run home and get dry pants), trudging through nearly foot-high water pointing at every extension cord covered by H2O. Oh, and don’t think I forgot about that little “conversation” I mentioned at the beginning. It went like this (hundreds of times that day):

Me (pointing at a submerged extension cord): That one.

Contractor: Why?

Me: Seriously?

Contractor: Yeah.

Me: IT. IS. UNDER. WATER.

Business… we’re seriously not good at it

Ok, that’s a broad generalization, but I’m standing by it. Because even the best among us… the Safety Pro who can sell safety based on an iron-clad ROI. That guy. Even he has missed one key ingredient at least once. We all have.

We’re all guilty of pulling safety out of the work process at least once. How many administrative processes have we thrown in people’s faces “just to ensure” they do the “safety” step? How many unnecessary forms have we created and required without knowing how the work works? Which revision of the site safety manual are you currently updating to distribute to the workforce along with a sign-off sheet they have to sign for acknowledgement?

Now ask yourself two questions: How many of those things made someone safer? & How much more effective might those endeavors have been if you could show your organization how to accomplish safety without impeding their work? Think about what that ROI would look like with that little detail included.

In the case of the watery extension cord saga, the contractor was pretty well justified in considering the wet cords a risk worth taking. According to Safety the only thing at stake was the remote possibility someone would get shocked and the even remoter possibility that OSHA would magically appear and unleash the fury at that very moment.

But what if we had helped them with their problem in exchange for some help with ours? Better still, what if we had shown them that their work could be done more safely and efficiently if they corrected the hazard?

How do we get better?

Think about it like this. Have you ever seen an extension cord explode, electrocute a puppy, burn down a building, or turn an average Joe into a super villain because it got wet? I haven’t. And I’ve seen a shit-ton of them (see above). Does that mean they’re not hazardous? Of course not. But it’s not one of the risks that makes me loose sleep. I doubt someone who’s job isn’t SAFETY even thinks about it. If they do, it’s highly likely they consider it a costly nuisance.

So here’s the challenge: If your job requires you to convince someone to do something they think will cost them [anything], you need to find a better way to persuade than telling them they might (in some non-quantified way) experience some level of undesired consequences up to and including death or termination (whichever comes first). Rather than adding roadblocks to the work, find a way to add value. That’s what I think every time I see an extension cord.

If you’re new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Jason. I’m a safety professional, podcast host, author, and world-renowned origami artist (that’s a lie). If you’re NOT new to this blog, go buy my book… it’s like this but multiplied by the power of unicorn tears. In any case, I hope you enjoy the content here. Please like, share, and join in the discussion as we all pursue Relentless Safety.

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Safety Whack-A-Mole… Blindfolded

Sorry, Jason. She’s going to need bed rest!!!!

I’d been sitting in a crowded waiting room for hours with Julie, one of the executive assistants on my project. Julie was a sweet woman with a mean streak. I learned early on that it was best to stay on her good side. And I always did… which was why I was the one sitting with her that particular day.

At the time, I was fresh out of the Air Force and still learning what safety was about in the “real world.” The company I now worked for had been serving as “agent for the client” at my location for over 27 years. The project spanned six phases of construction worth billions. Our people rarely experienced injuries on that project so when Julie strained her back picking up an ice chest full of soda everyone was very “concerned.”

I’m sure the concern had nothing to do with the fact that the project proudly boasted about no lost time accident in nearly 17 years…

So, there Julie and I waited. She was tough but I could tell she was in a lot of pain. Finally, the medical assistant called her back and I walked to the door with her. I had two reasons for doing so: First I asked if I could consult with the doctor to let him know what Julie’s role was and what kind of accommodations we could make if he determined that her duties needed restrictions, and second I really (and I mean really) needed to pee.

The MA let me into the back as she shuttled Julie into an exam room. I walked to the restroom and tried the knob but found it locked. So I waited. Standing there, I watched the doctor follow Julie and the MA into the room and close the door. So much for my consult, I thought.

But then, the doctor emerged just as quickly as he had gone in. He headed straight for me.

“I know what you’re after, Jason and I hate to give you bad news. But she’s going to need at least three days of bed rest.” His lightning fast diagnosis was perplexing to me.

“She needs bed rest for a back strain?” I asked.

“That’s what she needs. I’m afraid so,” he answered.

I’m sure I was glaring at him, but I didn’t ask any more questions. He walked away and I forgot about my urgent need. I walked back out to the waiting room to call my boss and deliver the news. Our record was about to end.

My boss handled it well. He accepted the news and told me to “just make sure she’s taken care of.” I hung up and sighed with relief as my bladder reminded me it also needed to be taken care of. So, I headed back to the restroom once again.

Great news!!!

I emerged a few minutes later to see the doctor once again leaving Julie’s room and heading toward me. He looked like he’d seen a ghost.

“Great news Jason! No restrictions or time off!?!! Julie can return to work today.” His look was shifty and nervous. Again, I agreed and let him move on.

As he walked away, Julie exited the room with a devilish smirk on her face. I can only imagine what she told him when he tried to give her time off. She told me on the ride home that she wasn’t going to be the one to break a 17 year record. At the time I considered it a victory. I didn’t know any better.

“No lives were ever saved in retrospect” – PLD

The aftermath of Julie’s incident was filled with corrective actions, new office policies, and worker training. It was as typical as any post accident ritual at any company. We spent hours determining the root cause of her injury (ahem… her back was not strong enough to perform that task in that position). We interviewed the co-worker who had been helping with the coolers. The project manager even made the decree that canned beverages were not to be carried in any greater quantity than a 12-pack (seriously).

All of it was done under the auspices of “prevention.” Which… would have been fine if it prevented anything. The problem, as with most reactionary safety, is that circumstances are rarely, if ever, duplicated. In this case, the project had similar injury when Julie’s counterpart picked up a cooler filled with ice not six months later. But, hey, she hadn’t violated the 12-pack rule.

I’m not trying to say that figuring out what can be learned from an injury is a bad thing. Those are lessons we need to learn. What I am getting at is that we spend far too much time reacting because of a consequence instead of trying to avoid that consequence in the first place. You can read between the lines of this story and get a pretty clear idea of why organizations do it, but those subjects are for another post.

The constant rear-view mentality of safety has created a mob of over-paid band-aid dispensers who no nothing more than try to prevent something that ALREADY happened. Most of them fool themselves into believing that will magically change the future. We should do better…

  • We should stop telling people that their safety is determined by a number
  • We should find ways to investigate and replicate successful work
  • We should engage with our people to find out what little things make their jobs more difficult than they need to be
  • We should look beyond yesterday and try to figure out what will kill and maim today.

Until we do, we’ll just keep playing blindfolded whack-a-mole safety.

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The Sky (PROBABLY) Isn’t Falling…

I don’t usually pander to the flavor of the day, but COVID-19 has permeated every aspect of social media lately. I’m hoping that I can help bring some pragmatism into the conversation. Not because I’m super smart or have knowledge most people lack, but specifically because I don’t. We’re all lacking full understanding of what’s going on. The media hype (regardless of what’s motivating it) isn’t helping matters.

First and foremost, people need to educate themselves on the risks associated with this outbreak. We should be seeking credible sources to help us make informed decisions about our response. Should we take it seriously? Of course. Should we buy two thousand rolls of toilet paper because the apocalypse is nigh? Sure, just give me some time to get some Charmin stocks purchased first…

Hysteria isn’t the answer fellow safety peeps. We should be the ones bringing rationale to the table. From a risk perspective, we need to remember the fundamentals (ahem… Hierarchy of Controls anyone?). Too many are casting aside their sensibilities because wearing an N95 makes people “feel” safe.

So let’s get educated.

My good friend Abby Ferri recently published a well-informed white paper on Corona virus and I think it’s a great place to start.

You can find the paper on her website (abbyferri.com) or by clicking THIS LINK!!!

Let’s help each other out and share knowledge instead of unfounded opinions. Otherwise we’ll all be wiping with our sleeves and passing out from lung fatigue.

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The Only Way To Safety

Year one is in the books!

Yesterday marked exactly one year since I started Relentless Safety. It’s been an interesting one. Now, here we are 100 posts (yep you’re reading article 100, be sure to catch up if you haven’t read them all) later and I have to say is it’s been a wild ride so far.

I had every intention of sitting down to write this yesterday after some weekend work, but the allure of a wife-sanctioned nap won out. It was a nice nap, but I’m still a little grumpy about why I needed one in the first place… Daylight Savings Time!

As usual, my Spring Forward Sunday included the obligatory discussion about the senselessness of Daylight Savings. Since I can’t recall ever meeting anyone who disagrees with that sentiment, I’ll spare you the research paper on why I think changing the clock twice a year is stupid.

The conversation got me thinking…

So much of what we do in the safety profession is based on what we’ve always done. And sometimes what we’ve always done makes about as much sense as loosing an hour of sleep so you’ll have more time to plant your crops. Yet there are so many who cling to ideas just because they know nothing else.

A few weeks ago I was invited to sit on a multi-disciplinary task analysis panel. It ended up being a fun experience, but the first day had me doubting. I always try to feel out the room before getting too boisterous. Especially when I’ve never met anyone. Not everyone shares my temperament though.

The interesting part about that first day was watching everyone jockey for position. Everyone wanted to stake the claim that they knew best (or at least as much as everyone else). One would pontificate about his knowledge of a regulation only to be countered by another who zealously proclaimed to go “beyond regulations in my industry.” It was civil, but also a little uncomfortable. But as the day progressed I started to notice something eye- opening.

Other perspectives are hard to see

It’s easy to get wrapped up in what we know or believe to be true. Everyone does it. In safety that’s a dangerous proposition, though. Because it obscures your vision and impedes your ability to see what’s actually going on outside of the box you hide your ideas in.

In an interesting twist, after that first day of tension, the group spent a few hours getting to know each other over drinks and dinner. Not surprisingly, the discussion was much smoother on day 2.

So what have I learned?

If the past year of writing and interacting with those of you who take the time to read this stuff has taught me anything, it’s that perspective matters. And everyone’s is different. There is no magic safety bullet, so quit thinking that your way is THE WAY (now the picture makes sense, huh?).

The more time and energy we can put into figuring out all of the angles (perspectives), the more likely we’ll be able to see the next big thing heading our direction. The people we support will appreciate when we do.

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I Got 99 Problems But A Niche Ain’t One

That seemed like a suiting title for my 99th post on Relentless Safety

It’s been a crazy road over the last year. As with anything it’s tempting to veer off course and get sidetracked. But the ideas that pushed me down this rabbit hole have remained constant. Relentless Safety is about starting conversations that this profession needs to have to get better. Along the way, my hope is that it also helps make safety interesting to people who roll their eyes as soon as we step on site.

Recently I got the chance to talk to Dr. Jay Allen about what brought me here on The Jay Allen Show. Now you can have a little Relentless Safety in your ears as well as on your screen. Hope you enjoy.

Listen to “EP 107 – Jason A. Maldonado” on Spreaker.

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Imaginary Safety Unicorns & Rainbows

CHARLIE!!!!

I F#$@%*& Hate Cooling Towers…

Let me explain. I don’t actually hate the existence of cooling towers. I hate that they break down and fail sometimes. If you’ve read my book, you likely remember why I’m so sensitive about it (and if you haven’t read the book, you probably should). In the meantime, while you’re waiting for your new copy to arrive, I’ll get you up to speed.

Some people like to grandstand. It’s a part of life I should be used to by now. I’m not though. I still get riled up when it happens.

So here’s the scoop… Someone emailed me last week with a very accusatory tone (admit it, you know emails have tone). The message was from a VP who was very concerned about a NEAR MISS that had happened at a construction site at one of her facilities. Her contractors were very shook up about the nearly fatal event and wanted to know what was going to be done to ensure their safety at the site.

What actually happened was this: Some equipment failed and a some plastic fell off of a roof onto the ground at an unoccupied construction site where no one was working. Problem? Yes. Serious near miss? Not quite.

However…

What if there had been people there?!?! (Gasp). What if more equipment fails in the future and bigger chunks of material come careening down to earth in flaming fireballs? What if there was a bus full of children on their first school field trip who were there to see their first construction site? All of that could happen. Doesn’t that qualify it as a near miss?

NO!

None of it actually happened. A piece of equipment failed. That equipment needs to be addressed. Hopefully we’ll learn something about preventing damage like that in the future, but the incident was not more than it was.

Safety people need to stop making things up to sell the importance of safety. It makes us look foolish. Instead, we should be using events like the one I described to partner and work on solutions. No one needs to be imaginarily sliced into human confetti in order for action to take place.

Stick to reality. People will respect you more for doing that than they will if you pontificate about the likelihood about being struck by lightening indoors.

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The Safety Elite

If the safety profession were a gym it would be Planet Fitness

On a serious note, most of us have no excuse.

That’s mean. Planet Fitness isn’t that bad…

OK, now that I’ve turned away anyone who can’t take a joke let me get to the point. But please excuse me if I lose my train of thought while I indulge in pizza and Tootsie Rolls (seriously, Planet Fitness gives those out… and bagels).

Anyway… those of you who aren’t gym rats might be curious where I’m going here. This post isn’t just a jab at planet fitness (but do Google it if you want some laughs). Believe it or not I actually have a safety point to make.

The elite focus the goal

I’ve had the privilege of training with some of the worlds best bodybuilders. I’m not even close to that league, but surprisingly, some monsters are incredibly inviting. The lessons I learned from that group could fill countless posts. Topics like mental toughness, perseverance, and drive are embodied by that type of athlete. But one thing relates more than most: unrelenting drive.

Every one of those men and women I’ve had the honor of working with has embodied the same type of laser focus. And none of them ever walked into the gym thinking about what they didn’t want. They all fixate on what they are going to achieve.

The point is simple

No successful person ever achieved their status by dwelling on the things they don’t want. For athletes, that means that the fear of being too slow, or too fat, or too weak is never the prime motivator. The end goal is. And their work is reflective of that.

Why is it then, that in the safety profession we are so stuck on what we don’t want? Injuries, “bad” rates, inattention, etc. You get my point (hopefully).

How much more successful would we be if we spent all our time on energy working to get the results we desire? I think that’s something worth considering.

Tomorrow (August 28th) is the day! My book A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit is finally available for purchase. It’s been almost a year in the making and I can say without a doubt that it was born of extreme focus. I hope you’ll experience it with me.

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Never Underestimate the Power of What You DON’T Say

Not everything is mutually exclusive

As you can imagine, I get a wide variety of comments based on the things I post here on Relentless Safety. Most of it is good, encouraging, and helps drive the conversation. Some people resort to personal attacks when they disagree. Especially when I’m feeling feisty and post things like THIS… or THIS. Don’t worry, no one has made me cry yet. I find it entertaining.

One recurring theme in the few (and I mean few in the sense that I haven’t yet had to start counting with my toes… fingers only) negative replies I’ve gotten over the past few months is that they tend to assume that because I’ve advocated for one particular thing I don’t support some other, unrelated thing. For instance, THIS POST covered my (not as controversial as I first thought) view on why we should stop measuring safety based on outcomes. In it I talked about why rates are a terrible measure of performance. One reader responded in disbelief because I “don’t care about the little things” even though that statement was never made.

My experience is people tend to jump to conclusions and make illogical leaps when they disagree but (presumably) don’t have a good rebuttal. The same thing happened after THIS POST that covers a certain type of flawed policy. The response that time was that I was advocating for a world with no safety rules at all.

Newsflash: I don’t have all the answers

Another common comment is that I don’t provide solutions to the problems I identify. Most of the time I have to refrain from replying, “did you actually read what I wrote?” Sometimes the solution is in the title (I’m sneaky like that). Do I write detailed blueprints for how to implement? No, of course not. That’s for each of us to do in our particular situation.

Aside from that, it would be incredibly vain and presumptuous for me to assume I know how to fix everything. If I find a solution that I think is particularly useful, I share it (case in point). We should all do that, but I digress.

Here’s the real meat and potatoes

Enough about me and my plight with keyboard warriors. Maybe one of them will click on some of these links and read with an open mind. I won’t hold out hope though. What I do hope is that someone will be able to take some of these lessons I’ve learned and apply them in a way that will improve their environment.

In my book, I briefly cover an episode with a supervisor who worked on a project I was a part of for a short period. He was a skilled tradesman, but a terrible leader. And not at all supportive of any worker safety initiative. I tried many times to coach him on it, but he was stuck. He would comply, that wasn’t the issue. His delivery sucked.

Every time a new requirement or program rolled out, he would roll his eyes and sigh as he delivered the message. I don’t recall every specific instance, but his delivery usually came out something like this: “OK, guys. Corporate is making us do this crap. Make sure you sign this sheet before you get to work. Otherwise you’ll just have to listen to it again.”

What he DIDN’T say was “this will make your work safer” or “I really support this.” He didn’t believe in it, so neither did his people. As an example, I would routinely find them huddled in the break room at the end of the day filling out their pre-shift JHAs. If it wasn’t so sad, it would have been comical.

One of them would scribe and try to recreate their day hour by hour:

“Hey, Jimmy,” he would say. “What were we doing at 2 pm? Oh, right… What PPE were you wearing? Got it.” You can probably imagine that conversation in vivid detail.

Eventually they found a better corner to hide in, but their practices never changed. All because of what their supervisor didn’t say.

It happens all the time

I’m not just knocking supervisory skill here. This is applicable anyone at any level of an organization. The point is that sometimes what goes unspoken is what we hear loudest. Think about every time you watch someone doing a task incorrectly or in an unsafe manner and then walk on without saying something. What does that action say to the person who’s doing it? I would assert that it clearly tells them what they’re doing is acceptable, maybe even expected.

That’s just one of many scenarios where we have the opportunity to communicate better. Safety would benefit a whole lot by meeting people where they are, not assuming they know what we expect, and giving clear direction. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. None of us will get it right every time, but it’s a worthy endeavor to put in some concerted effort.

Here’s to some meaningful conversations.

If you’re new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Jason. I’m a safety professional, podcast host, author, and world-renowned origami artist (that’s a lie). If you’re NOT new to this blog, go buy my book… it’s like this but multiplied by the power of unicorn tears. In any case, I hope you enjoy the content here. Please like, share, and join in the discussion as we all pursue Relentless Safety.

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Workers Keep Dying, Safety Keeps Chasing Band-Aids

I’m just going to come right out say it. This subject straight pisses me off. When we go around talking about how awesome our companies are at safety because we’ve got low incident rates it equates to pissing on the grave of every worker who has died at our facilities. There is no correlation and the games we play to get “good” are just disgusting. Interpreting the grey areas in CFR 1904 to justify leaving it off your 300 log IS NOT safety.

If you think I’m wrong, just do some research about the “excellent” injury rates and safety programs of giant companies that have experienced multiple deaths when offshore rigs explode, or have massive chemical releases/explosions that poison whole towns. The point is that anyone can boast good numbers. Very few can say they’ve provided their workers a workplace that won’t kill them.

Stop looking in the wrong places

If you’re willing to accept the idea that our main goal is to prevent death and catastrophic injury this should be an easy logical leap: Trying to reduce risk to the point where no one is injured is ridiculous. Life itself is a risk of injury and a guarantee of death (I’ve said that many times, but the safety zealots won’t buy it). The only reason for an organization to set a goal of “zero injuries” is to look good on paper, thus becoming more competitive and beefing up bonuses. It’s much less glamorous, and a much harder endeavor to focus on the things that kill.

So, we don’t. We nit-pick every bump and scrape that required more than an OTC dose of Advil. Then we chastise managers and supervisors because they can’t find any way to prevent those things from happening again. The sad part about it is that for all the time we waste trying to find the “root cause” for why Billy’s finger started hurting, we loose valuable time that could be devoted to making sure his partner doesn’t get crushed by the faulty machine he operates.

Here’s a newsflash. You can’t prevent every injury. Neither can those leaders who you accuse of not giving a shit about safety. If you want to eliminate risk in your facility, recommend shutting it down as the corrective action next time someone gets cut and needs stitches. That’s the only way to guarantee it never happens again.

It’s time to get off the pedestal

Safety professionals (leaders in general, actually) are prone to superiority complexes. We get so good at analyzing things after they happen that we start believing that knowledge can translate into real time. “If only our workers paid more attention.” Maybe if we spent more time working along side them, feeling what they feel, seeing what they see, and reacting to what they experience we’d have a better perspective. Until we realize that our view of the world is different and start trying to figure out how other people see it, workers will keep dying. We’ll be safe in our plush office chairs, though. So I guess in the end it doesn’t really matter.

It’s time to put some pragmatism into this profession. That’s exactly why I wrote A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit. If you’re reading this thinking I haven’t offered a meaningful solution to our problems, well… buy the book. I’m not going to give everything away for free. Either way, let’s work together and start making a difference in the lives of the workers we’re supposed to support. They might not thank you for it, but at least you’ll be able to sleep at night knowing you did something that mattered.

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Built-In is Better than Value OR Priority

This isn’t my real house, I’m using it as a stand-in just in case I ever get internet stalkers.

My house was built in 1994. That means, aside from having very mature trees in the yard, everything inside is beige, gold, and scattered with built-ins. As far as the fixtures go, we have some updating to do. But the built-ins are pretty useful, even if they’re a little old. The first one we used when we moved in was the kitchen table (for pizza on move-in day when all of the dishes were still packed).

Among some of the other built-ins are an elegant shelf above the fireplace and a large inset bookshelf in the middle of the living room. The latter is the only bookshelf I’ve ever had that doesn’t feel like a nuisance. I’m proud enough of it that I actually dug my collection of Stephen King and Richard Laymon novels out of their garage boxes to put them on display. But I’m not writing this post just to brag about my 90s furniture. I’m sure it comes as no shock that they were the inspiration for a safety profession parallel. Well them along with some online keyboard warriors.

Que the beating of the drums…

I started this blog with a pretty forward statement about how tired the safety profession is. It’s rife with the same mantras, the same awareness campaigns, the same forceful compliance mindset that doesn’t stop people from getting killed at work. One need not look far into the corners of the internet to see examples of it. My least favorite is the timeless debate between the statement that safety is a “value” vs. the idea that it is a “priority.”

Most people who engage in this useless battle of semantics tend to side with the “value” side of the argument. That’s what’s trendy these days. As with any good debate, each side has it’s highs and lows.

Proponents of safety being a “priority” will argue that safety isn’t important to an organization if it’s not willing to put it on that pedestal. Detractors argue that “priorities” can be changed and shuffled at will. I won’t go too much deeper than that, we’ve all heard it a million times.

Conversely, the other side argues that if safety is a “value” it can’t be changed or swayed by outside influences. Detractors, in this case, make the assertion that just because something is valued it isn’t necessarily useful. Much like the piece of home-made woodburning art I gave my wife one valentines day.

We’ve pulled safety out long enough. Time to put it back in

If you haven’t written this post off for safety heresy yet, I applaud you. So many just choose to take their ball and go home when someone says something anti-establishment. When you think about it, though, it makes a whole lot of sense to drop the whole tired debate. In the end, it’s just a whole lot of words that don’t really move any organization forward. When we start talking about how much we “value” safety or that it’s our number 1 “priority,” you can actually hear people’s eyes rolling back into their skulls if you listen closely. People don’t want slogans and eloquent philosophies spewed at them, they want tools they can use.

The biggest problem with the value vs. priority debate is a little more obscure than you might think, though. It isn’t that we waste too much time arguing about it, or that one is more right than the other. It’s that both perpetuate the idea that safety is some separate, added extra that people have to do before getting to the real work they should be doing. In reality, safety should be built-in. It’s not number one, it’s step 3, and step 7, and step 12… A built in, intrinsic part of of the work that makes our businesses run.

We don’t need debates, we need action

Anyone that strives to make worker’s lives safer knows we have a long road ahead. It’s a road with no end for that matter. If we’re going to make the journey easier we can start by changing the way we define what safety is. We should make it a “part” of every job our people do, not some philosophical mumbo jumbo.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about that “valuable” piece of art I gave my wife, it’s not doing much. But it is chilling on the built-in shelf above the fireplace. It also gets priority whenever the kids are told to dust up there.

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