Are we victims of our own safety systems?
Health and safety is perceived by lots of people as a boring subject, but who is primarily responsible for that…who wrote the procedures? Lots of personality and behaviour profiling studies have revealed that the majority of safety professionals fit into Keirseys’ Guardian temperament which comprises supervisors, inspectors, providers and protectors. It’s mostly the Guardians that tend to write the procedures for people to adopt because we appear to fit that mold and we think were good at it. Once written, we fight to keep a tight rein on the systems through policing to ensure people obey what we value to be correct and we demand that people respect our viewpoint.
We are often self opinionated and fight to protect what we believe is correct and when we don’t listen we easily alienate the very people we are trying to protect. Isn’t it time we took a leaf out of Gandhi’s book before trying to influence others and think about changing ourselves before we attempt to influence others? Perhaps we need to think more carefully about how we get buy-in from the workers by involving them in concept design, developing procedures, choosing equipment etc.
Perhaps we need to think again about how we get a range of different personality types (guardians, artisans, idealists and rationals) to form a united front that represents the whole of the workforce rather than part of it. Our world is evolving faster than ever before with new technology and gen “Z” is on its way. Do we need a massive shake up in our systems that are already dated, boring and bureaucratic to make them more flat, personal, flexible and engaging. Are our systems so massive and tightly coupled so as to eliminate all minute failure, harm and risk as to become overly fragile and unable to cope when it really hits the fan? Are we focusing on the wrong thing?
We tend to concentrate on prevention and the goal of zero harm, but should we be devoting more time about the cure (let’s face it more people are dying from illness than deaths due to accidents and this is only going to get worse) I don’t personally know all the answer to these questions, but I’m concerned that we perhaps get too focused on what we perceive as wrong without looking at the big picture or thinking ahead?