An Unlearning Safety Journey

An Unlearning Safety Journey

imageThis will be my last post for 2014 and it was inspired a comment made by Rob Sams recently on On Alan Langstone’s Article: Just Distract You (please read this first). You will see that Alan has only just started his journey of unlearning the traditional safety approach of numbers, compliance, obedience and hazards etc.  Rob’s comment was brilliant and worthy of almost an entire article on its own:

Good one Alan and welcome to the fascinating learning journey of social psychology and how it relates to risk. It seems like you have developed a passion for this and for learning, great stuff. One of the things I have found difficult at times in my own journey is the ‘unlearning’ too. I sometimes feel that those of us who have come up through the ranks of ‘traditional safety’ have a distinct disadvantage at times to learning social psychology as it seems counter intuitive to a lot of the stuff that we’ve learned previously – e.g. pyramids. I’ve found both the learning and unlearning much easier, and more enjoyable, by being part of a supportive community. Welcome to it!

I enjoyed reading your article, great that you are asking questions of things and interrogating, I’ve learned this is so important in learning and growing.

I’m not sure that I’d Social Psychology the 3rd iteration of ‘safety’ (Safety 3). In fact, I like to steer away from the word ‘safety’ now and instead think about dealing with risk. On my reflection of ‘traditional safety’ over the past two years, after a lifetime working ‘in it’, I see so much control, obedience and use of power in an attempt to limit people’s freedom. I’m hoping that by understanding people better, both ourselves and the influence of our social arrangements and environment, that we can become better and more free people at work. There is such a seduction to want to reign in and control people to obey, but what social psychology has taught me to think about is the trade-offs and by-products that come from this approach.

Great to see another person thinking differently and being brave enough to out ideas, and importantly questions, out there with the aim of learning. Love it!

Much as the word “journey” makes me cringe (probably from overuse on reality TV), I would prefer to use “adventure” I have to concede that its probably an appropriate term to use for the unlearning safety process. In November I had the privilege of sharing my journey at the launch of Rob Long’s must read new book Following-Leading in Risk (see Safety Career Highlight). I stole the diagram of the “Hero’s Journey” from Rob’s book as I related it almost exactly to my journey from engineering and production management, to becoming a safety spud, to then despising safety, to my dissonance costing me my marriage and job, to starting this blog, to discovering social psychology and now my transformation (phew that’s cutting a long story very short).

This year has seen many others embark on this same journey and become my friends. Some have even become awesome authors on this blog, in their quest to share their knowledge and learn from others responses.

My unlearning safety journey has definitely been the professional highlight of my 2014 and I thank you all for guiding me, inspiring me, teaching me, listening to me and telling me to pull my head in when needed.

To all the Safety Spuds I have locked horns with or maybe offended this year – I apologize if you have taken anything personally. I totally empathize with where you are at, your fears and your lack of understanding – that was me once and back then I would have shot people like me, and all the other authors on this site, down in flames if I had the chance. Only now do I see how ignorant but challenged I was back then. But it was that feeling of dissonance, that gut feeling that there had to be a better way that started me on my current journey and I hope it does the same for you.

I would love you to share your journey here. See you on the other side (Thanks Gab Carlton for that one)

Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below