The Only Way To Safety

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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How To Write Better Safety Messages: Condescension Edition

Bill still disprove of the way safety people write. Let’s fix it.

Emails don’t have tone, right?

Sure. Ice cream doesn’t have any carbs either.

I read an email recently that had been sent to an entire company. It was written by some corporate guy with some letters behind his name and a fancy safety title. That part wasn’t too offensive (I have some fancy letters too). I might have even been able to overlook the scores of grammatical errors. But I couldn’t get past the way it sounded as I read the words.

The email was supposed to be a safety lesson that crews could discuss and learn from. But it was so belittling and condescending, that I doubt many got to the point.

Don’t be as stupid as THAT guy…

The message was about as simple and straightforward as you can get. It’s author was encouraging everyone to think about their PPE selection when dealing with sharp objects, gloves in particular. To illustrate the point, the author retold a story about a worker who had cut himself while wearing Kevlar gloves. The worker had been shocked that he had still been cut even though he had been wearing “cut proof gloves” (his words). The rest of the email essentially made fun of the injured man for being so ignorant as to believe there actually was such a thing.

After reading the email I wouldn’t be surprised if the the author had responded to the injured worker, “They’re cut resistant, you idiot.”

Not everyone knows what you know

The whole point, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, is that our people deserve better than being talked down to. Safety messages need to draw people in, teach them something valuable, and inspire them to act. They’re not a medium we should use to boast our superiority.

Think about that next time you send an email, write a safety message, or just talk to someone face to face. I’m pretty sure there was a time when each of us knew nothing about safety gloves and their limitations. Maybe we should realize that about other people too.

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