Boxing-In Safety Can Be Dangerous
When I was a young boy I remember my parents buying their first automatic washing machine which came in a large cardboard box. I watched them fill it with clothes, a magic white powder and revolve around for about two minutes before turning my attention to the box.
Like most children growing up with few toys in the 70’s, this castaway item became my fort to fight the Indians; a castle to become a knight; a ship for me to captain and when my dad cut out some windows and painted it blue, the TARDIS for you know who?
Inside the TARDIS my imagination would fly, allowing me to dream of new mystical worlds, fight many imaginary creatures and go where no one had ventured before.
See: https://vimeo.com/25239728 – The Adventures of a Cardboard Box
At this early age I knew where I wanted to go and who I wanted to be. The road ahead was wide open, and there was nothing stopping me.
As I grew older the cardboard box was transformed to a receptacle for my toys and in my teenage years for my clothes and shoes, I began to lose touch with my earlier desires and got caught up in the daily grind of school life. It was here that my imagination began to become stifled as regimented rote learning and number crunching became part of everyday life.
Even worse, when started work I couldn’t help but notice the traditional educational learning streams had been adapted into procedures, where people were forced to recite words contained in a series of linear boxes and try and memorise them to solve common everyday activities.
Safety systems such as JHA’s, Risk Registers, Hazard Identifications etc are no different, as we try to fit everything into a series of rectangles which nicely fits an A4 page!
Sadly, the “Boxification” of procedures has led us up the garden path to a compliant place where we feel comfortable with mediocrity and have lost sight of our dreams and aspirations.
The very nature of these systems has reduced our ability to spot scotomas and our once vivid and imaginative minds have given way to a tick and flick society.
See: Wikipedia – Boxspeak:
When the structure of an article becomes cluttered with numerous boxes, then the reader is steered into an environment of “boxspeak” where communication of information is primarily structured into a boxified presentation, of rigid box formats, rather than as free-form text which wraps down the page, with different text-sizes depending on each reader’s browser settings. Due to the rigid box format, further explanation of the data is hindered, or thwarted, especially in cases of unusual data items which would typically have extra details explained when in a textual format.
It’s in these plain old white narrow boxes where we are forced to solve risks and record all meaningful information, but in fact it does nothing more than lure us away from reality.
In these white boxes, we often get polarized by subjectivity and fail to account for the competence, experience and ability.
Our brains don’t think in boxes but in a series of associations, so a mind map would be a far better medium to improve our thinking and devise better solutions.
I believe that the boxification of procedures has prevented everyday people from overcoming their limitations, possibly increased risk through boredom and stifled growth by blocking out creativity.
In fact It’s not the number or size of boxes in your procedure that matters, but what you do inside them that counts!
Perhaps, If we really want to make real big dent in workplace incidents, it’s time to change from our conventional methods to more divergent systems, utilizing new technology to process and record information, which will allow people to pursue their highest goals and aspirations and make the world a truly safer place?
Safety Matters (NZ) Ltd