You Talkin’ (safety) To Me?

Algorithms are weird

Yet, it seems we live our lives by them. No matter the application, we’re glued to devices that interpret us and feed us the data they think we want. I’m not going to claim I know much more about any of it than that, but I wonder sometimes what my “feed” would look like If I had chosen to drink Starbucks this morning, or if I hadn’t messaged Abby Ferri about bone conduction headphones (thanks for that). I have to believe there’s a whole world (maybe even more than one) that I never see.

One might assume that because I write safety and health articles, I would see a wide variety of Occupational Safety articles in my feed. What you’d actually find are more messages about OSHA compliance than I care to read along with the latest round of recycled, ten-year-old safety fail pictures “safety guys” use to shame “idiots” with “no common sense.” I’ve also noticed over my years on social media that the AIs seem to think I enjoy politics more than I do, that I need constant inspirational messages pasted on pictures of beautiful sunsets, and that I am ALWAYS in the market for an iPhone case. But, I digress… My point is that it’s all pretty static.

When I started Relentless Safety one goal was to disrupt the constant drone of the same old same old. I came to realize very quickly that disruption causes strife. Because people don’t like to do things differently. So, we settle into a groove. I’m just as guilty as anyone.

Today that truth was thrown in my face as truth often is. It reminded me that the words in these posts were never meant to pander to popular opinion. Even those that align with my own beliefs. The idea is that we need to reach beyond what we believe (our “feeds” if you will) and seek more. Seek better. Confirmation bias will get you more of the same. 

Here's what went down

My SJL cohorts and I were texting about an online poll regarding the term “safety guy” (or girl). Results were mixed at best, but those who opposed it seemed to be tempered. There was a feeling of “it is what it is” in their responses. I didn’t even respond, so I can’t judge too harshly. The resounding noise between the words bothered me though. It seemed that even those who dared speak up in opposition to an industry-standard term had resolved to accept it despite their lack of support.

That’s a weak way to say it though.

The term “safety guy” is an antiquated, bullshit, sexist term that belittles not only the one it’s bestowed upon, but the profession itself. The truth is this: WORDS MATTER. TITLES MATTER. “SAFETY GUY” IS FUCKING BELITTLING AND DIMINISHES THE CREDIBILITY OF WHAT WE DO!

If “safety” is ever going to deserve a place at the table (in terms of leadership), then it needs to provide more value than some random “GUY” who yells at people for not wearing their safety glasses. And let’s face it, that’s the stigma that comes with the term. We need to be recognized as a resource, not a force to resist. That will only happen if we stop blowing our own horns and start working with workers to build safety into their process. We’re spectacular at touting our knowledge of regulations and our ability to spot hazards…

But how much of that makes it to the places that matter?

How many eye rolls and crossed arms (during safety meetings)
are we going to accept before we realize that the problem doesn’t lie with the ones doing the work, but the ones who are supposedly there to make it safer? 

How long will it take “safety” to realize that it is there to support, not suspend?

How long will we be OK with talking to ourselves?

I’m ready for a change. Are you?