We know that online inductions and online training may save money but expose organizations to significant risks, including legal liability. (https://vimeo.com/164670789) As Greg Smith often makes the point in the Risky Conversation video series (https://vimeo.com/humandymensions ), what many organisations do in the name of managing safety simply helps to build a database of non-compliance. (https://vimeo.com/162034157) In building and construction industry for example, we now have a White Card as an extra layer of meaninglessness in the safety management regime that no one gives much value. Holding out a White Card simply shows that one knows how to get one and fork out a few dollars, not that one knows anything about the management of risk. So when they come on site we must assume they don’t really know anything about safety, so they get re-inducted. No wonder people think that safety is an embuggerance.
The more we flood the market with extra layers of meaningless process (for example, the Federal Safety Commissioner) the less safe we make building and construction. How can people take safety seriously when so much pessimism and skepticism is fed into the system with processes that make no difference to safety on site? When anything becomes an embuggerance, people stop listening.
The idea of being ‘face-to-face’ emphasizes relationship, sharing, presence and immediacy. There is no substitute for ‘being present’, so much is communicated without even needing to say anything. Are we losing the value of ‘being present’ in our organisations? Particularly when it comes to such things as managing critical risks. It seems absurd that we would delegate the managing of risk to a process of distance and indifference that cannot ensure learning. It seems crazy that the safety industry thinks a signature on a piece of paper for an induction is a defense in court.
Imagine if something bad were to happen in your family or community and you decided to express your concern. Do you send an email? Do you decide to sms your feelings? Do you suggest an online funeral? No, you know you have to be present. Similarly for any occasion, celebration or life event. We know that being present is critical. It would be like saying one watched a video of being in Paris and suggesting it was the same as ‘being’ there. We know that ‘being present’ improves relationships and enhances knowledge. If there is a conflict on site or a challenge at work, we know it is better to ‘meet’ and ‘be present’ than to try to manage that conflict online. Often seeking to do so makes things much worse.
Unfortunately, most of the benefits of meeting face-to-face are not easily measureable, this doesn’t mean they lack value. Indeed, most of the things that are most valuable such as trust, hope, engagement, listening, helping and care cannot be measured. Let’s just take a quick look at two essential skills for practicing ‘face-to-face safety’.
‘Being present’ is about much more than being physically present. In beginner pastoral psychology one learns the skill of ‘attending’ (http://www.thecounsellorsguide.co.uk/attending-skills.html ). Attending is a way of orienting oneself to another and towards an issue. It’s not just enough to show up, being present and playing on your phone is not ‘being present’. You can’t be face-to-face if you are being face-to-phone!
What also has to go with attending is ‘suspension of agenda’. This means pushing one’s own interests into the background for a moment in order to listen effectively. You can’t ‘be present’ if your head is full of distractions and ‘agenda’. If one wants to walk the site and converse with others about how they manage risk but doesn’t know how to listen, then its actually better to not walk the site at all. Doing a poor safety walk does more damage than good.
These and many other beginner helping skills are also essential to any Investigations process (https://www.safetyrisk.net/seek-investigations-workshop/). Knowing the fundamentals of effective dialogue and engagement are essential if one wants to listen and help others converse about risk. If ‘face-to-face safety’ is too expensive or if ‘being present’ is too onerous, one has already made a real statement about one’s priorities in safety, despite the slogans and mantras on one’s safety letterhead.