I was recently asked the following questions:
What questions would you like to ask safety professionals? What thoughts have struck you about the EHS pros? Do you see anything going on in the profession that is different? What about corporations and their views on safety and health?
My first overview addresses “The new marshal in town.” After three plus years, I see that the current administration is about as ineffective with its “aggressive approach” and entrenched bureaucracy as the last few administrations and that this marshal will leave town with no discernible impact. The bureaucracy resists any kind of change.
This leads me to favor the Mike Rowe ‘dirtiest jobs’ comment that safety is not first, but third. The first two important concepts in safety need to be common sense and personal responsibility. Safety reality requires each of us to be responsible for our own safety and that of those around us. Government regulators, policies and procedures, the next observation program and the like cannot replace a focus at the brain wave level of personal responsibility. Dr. Dan Petersen gave one of my favorite quotes about this when he said: “If the answer to who is responsible for your safety is anything but ‘I am,’ it is an accident waiting to happen.” How do you get this grassroots level of safety responsibility to be a part of the safety culture reality?
As for safety pros, I see about four kinds:
- Placeholders who train the regs, investigate injuries and maintain status quo no matter what
- Resistors who, when presented with a new wrinkle in safety, do all they can to squelch it for the security blanket of regulations and the way it has always been
- Frustrated pros who would like to try new concepts, but have management that will not support anything other than the inexpensive basics that have been a part of our profession for decades
- Challengers who figure out a way to get out of the box and piece by piece try innovations that may help improve their real performance
Unfortunately, the challengers seem to be less than 10 percent of the safety pro population. This includes both corporations and individuals who are trying to move out in a way that has a chance to make a discernible difference beyond which a regs marshal always seems to fail. Dealing with these ten percenters is truly a lift to my life as they challenge our profession and me personally to ‘Boldly go where no man (or woman) has ever gone before.’
This leads to innovative work.
- I like the Australian concept of safety pros taking responsibility to mentor safety excellence in small companies that do not have safety resources. I’d like to see us try this and maybe have mentoring of small companies become a part of our CSP recertification process
- It is a pleasure to work with global companies who bring the importance of personnel and process safety into locations that have little or no safety history or seeming care for their workers. These few global organizations are rising to the challenge of how to develop a zero-incident safety culture in a zero-safety culture world. Here, innovation is an acceptable challenge that is both funded and nurtured. This start up world of safety culture leads to a euphoria of experiencing noticeable successes where none existed before. The challenges do not lead to easy solutions, but to trials of innovative approaches, especially in the global construction organizations that want to achieve zero, no matter where they find themselves working
- I see the safety world as still being stuck in the reactive approach dictated by a focus on lagging indicators. It is inspiring to see an ever growing set of organizational initiatives to develop meaningful leading indicators which have the tools behind them to significantly improve the safety culture realities both at the personal front line and the corporate levels
This last point leads to another challenge for our safety professional, and that would be a meaningful dialogue on leading indicators.