Jerry won the safety award (but he didn’t do anything!)

Jerry won the safety award (but he didn’t do anything!)

safety award
I was at a family gathering recently and got talking to Jerry who I hadn’t spoken with for a while. We chatted about our work and he asked whether I was still in ‘safety’. I said no, that’s not what I do anymore: (I’m Not that into Safety Anymore) my work focuses on people and how we deal with risk.

Jerry was a bit surprised, he’d known me to be in ‘safety’ all of my working life, and you could tell that he lightened up when he knew that I no longer worked in ‘safety’. He said the safety bloke at his work is only interested when things go wrong, “I thought that’s what you did, that’s ‘safety’ isn’t it?” You could tell that we haven’t spoken for a while!

But this story is not about safety people, it just always amazes me how people respond when the word ‘safety’ is mentioned, and the ideas that it conjures up for people. Anyhow, back to Jerry. This is about Jerry’s wonderful achievements……

Jerry was proud, although slightly embarrassed at the same time, to tell that he had won the safety award a few years ago

at his last workplace. He worked in a petrol (gasoline) station as an attendant, a job that he had done for over twenty years with the same company. He enjoyed his job, interacting with customers and checking out the many cars that passed through the site (Jerry is a ‘car man’).

One day while he was busy serving a customer inside at his console, something caught his attention. A man was filling up a small metal container with fuel when Jerry noticed that the man’s arm caught alight. It turns out that he didn’t have the metal container on the ground and that meant that it wasn’t earthed which then caused a spark. A quick thinking customer at the next bowser swiftly assisted the man and put the fire out. Thankfully, everyone was ok.

Jerry saw all this from his console inside with the whole event over and done with in about twenty seconds. When both of the people involved in the event went inside to pay, Jerry diligently asked them for some basic details, filled out an Incident Form and copied the footage of the event from the stores video system, then sent all the details off the head office.

A few weeks went by and Jerry received a letter that was headed “Your Invitation to our Safety Awards”. Jerry was confused, what was this all about he thought. He spoke with a few of the blokes at work and none of them received the same letter. He called his boss, the Regional Manager, and asked what these awards were about and his boss had no clue.

This was becoming a mystery for Jerry, so he called the guy who wrote the letter, Benjamin the National Safety Manager. Benjamin explained that Jerry was being recognised for going ‘above and beyond’ to create a safe workplace.

Many organisations have reward and recognition programs in place, and it is common for one of the key areas of focus for such programs to be ‘safety’. Usually these awards are given for people, sites or leaders who either:

· Have a reduction in ‘safety numbers’

· Implement a new ‘safety’ initiative’

· Pass audits, inspections (or both).

I’m not sure what category Jerry’s award fit into?

Jerry went to the awards, not really sure what to expect, or why he was there, but he was pretty happy. As he recalled to me “mate it was great, they paid for me and the missus to stay overnight at The Hilton, there was all the free grog (alcohol) that I could drink, and they even paid me petrol money to drive down!” Jerry had a great night and he won the regional award. He was presented with a trophy and $500 shopping voucher and was feeling pretty chuffed.

The next step was a trip to Melbourne for the national awards. Jerry and his wife were provided with flights (from Sydney) and again put up in a five star hotel and hosted to a night of free grog. Unfortunately he didn’t win the national award, but instead an ‘Encouragement Award’.

When Jerry had finished telling me the story, he said two things that should have people in risk and safety thinking:

1. “I got this award, but I didn’t do anything” – (to this day, Jerry still has no clue why he was personally recognised for ‘going above and beyond’ for safety)

2. “Mate, I had a ball, and the missus just loved it (I was in the good books for months), but instead of spending all that money on stupid, meaningless safety awards, I reckon it would be better would be to just lower the cost of petrol. Our customers would then be happier and I’d enjoy my job more”

Jerry resigned from his job at the petrol station two days after getting back from Melbourne. He told me “I got a great job offer from a company who seemed fair dinkum. They don’t give out awards, but the boss knows what we do, talks to us and often says thanks. That’ll do me!”

How do you reward and recognise ‘safety’ in your business?

Author: Robert Sams

Phone: 0424 037 112



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Rob Sams
Rob Sams
Rob is an experienced safety and people professional, having worked in a broad range of industries and work environments, including manufacturing, professional services (building and facilities maintenance), healthcare, transport, automotive, sales and marketing. He is a passionate leader who enjoys supporting people and organizations through periods of change. Rob specializes in making the challenges of risk and safety more understandable in the workplace. He uses his substantial skills and formal training in leadership, social psychology of risk and coaching to help organizations understand how to better manage people, risk and performance. Rob builds relationships and "scaffolds" people development and change so that organizations can achieve the meaningful goals they set for themselves. While Rob has specialist knowledge in systems, his passion is in making systems useable for people and organizations. In many ways, Rob is a translator; he interprets the complex language of processes, regulations and legislation into meaningful and practical tasks. Rob uses his knowledge of social psychology to help people and organizations filter the many pressures they are made anxious about by regulators and various media. He is able to bring the many complexities of systems demands down to earth to a relevant and practical level.

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