Ancillary Skills for the Risk and Safety Profession
Latest article by Dr Robert Long. I highly recommend his other Articles HERE and his new book: For The Love of Zero
When you look at what preoccupies conferences and training in safety, you couldn’t help but think that to be a safety person you just need to be a lawyer, a bureaucrat or a police officer. In some organisations the idea of a ‘safety’ position doesn’t even exist rather, they have adopted the language of ‘zero harm advisor’, what a nonsense, do you get such a position with a bachelors degree in zero harm? How does one advise on perfection and the absolute, when the agents of actions are fallible humans? If you are a zero harm manager, do you get the sack if anyone is harmed?
When safety people get in the field and begin to converse and relate to ‘people on the tools’, they realize they need many skills that were not included in their training, some of these include:
· effective communication and collaboration skills
· the ability to observe and analyse
· critical thinking skills
· pastoral care and empathy
· understanding human decision making
· understanding and generating motivation
· knowing the fundamentals of learning
· knowing the psychology of risk
· understanding culture
· expertise in team leadership
· knowing how to influence decision making and,
· managing organisational politics
So if such knowledge and focus are not emphasized by the safety sector or safety training, where does someone obtain these? Perhaps, the school of ‘hard knocks’?
When the fresh and enthusiastic safety graduate first starts at work and encounters someone who is not motivated to safety ownership, what do they do? Perhaps they ask a school teacher who has undertaken extensive studies and field work in the nature of motivation and learning?
When a person walks into the office of the safety advisor and talks of bullying and unsafe work practices, where do they go for skills in pastoral care? Perhaps the local clergy who have done extensive studies and field work in counselling and listening?
When the conflict of production over safety raises its head and the politics of expediency and double standards is confronted, how is that managed? Perhaps they call on the local politician who could educate about the poison of politics? The list could go on but you get the idea.
Why is it that so much of the work of safety people is seduced into the process of legality rather than the humanization of safety? Has safety become so much of an ‘arse covering’ exercise that the real intention of safety is being lost? Have we become so consumed by the ‘cosmetics of safety’ that we no longer know how to create and influence safety ownership at work?