Right Then Children, Sit Up Straight and Take Some Safety
I had a friend send a documented toolbox talk this week that was delivered to a site team in a tier 1 civil construction company and it was embarrassing. Why do teams of grown adults put up with such childish, kindergarten, patronizing nonsense when it is delivered in the name of safety??? Why would a tier 1 company with stratospheric absurdity in paperwork think that safety is best marketed though Mums For Safety???. And of course if something goes wrong, didn’t you ask your Mum? Wasn’t your Mum there to tell you what to do??? Did Mummy kiss it better? If you envision something you have to be aware of its trajectory (Envisioning Risk, Seeing, Vision and Meaning in Risk). If you have no vision then you can’t see what’s coming.
So many of these companies set themselves up for an absolute smashing because they peddle this immature 3 year old pre-school stuff at adults.
Of course the reason why such companies stoop to this childish stuff is because they don’t understand why people do what they do. They have no idea about human judgment and decision making and so the only reason they can find to explain worker’s actions is attributed to intentionally or dumbness. All this is premised on the behaviourist paradigm that people are the sum of inputs and outputs. No greater curse to safety than behaviourism.
Whatever your brand of behaviourism you can be assured, it will never help you understand why people do what they do. If you build a castle on sand, its bound to fall over and building sand castles seems to be a profession for Safety.
The toolbox in question that was posted to me was about eye wear, and of course these guys had been flogged to death, sermonized, lectured and indoctrinated with safety glasses campaigns for the past 20 years. Oh yeah, but I know, lets give the dumb bastards another serve because they obviously don’t get it. Then without any qualifications or experience in adult learning, education or teaching, deliver a 3 year old serve of playschool (https://safetyrisk.net/what-can-safety-learn-from-playschool/ ) in the name of safety. No wonder workers think safety is a dumb embuggerance inflicted on adults who are sick to death of the lack of imagination and vision in an industry so poorly educated that this is the best they can come up with.
Of course you can’t criticize Safety, you’d lose your job. You can’t criticize Safety you would be anti-safety. You can’t criticize Safety, even though it is infantile and immature, because Safety is always right. You can’t criticize Safety because you will be deemed toxic and negative. Sit up straight boys and girls and cop your medicine in safety.
The exercise that was a part of this toolbox involved a role-play and of course delivered by a person with no competence at all in what they were doing and, by all reports completely disinterested in the message that he had to deliver because he too wanted to keep his job. I think were I to show this to the average school teacher they would be embarrassed to ever try something like this with a Year 1 class!
And so here we have more of the same, no vision for safety with ‘dumb down’ packaged as a strategy for tackling risk that creates cynicism, negativity, pessimism and skepticism. What an outcome! I bet no one envisioned such a trajectory, delivering a message in safety that pissed off everyone to Safety. Brilliant!
If this is the culture Safety wishes to create then all safety messages that follow are a waste of time. Adults who switch off in being treated like 3 year olds don’t remember a skerrick of the message, all they remember is that Safety is about stupidity, childishness and blind compliance. Most often the dumb down message drives the very opposite of what is desired. No wonder rooves fall in when you need your Mum around to tell you what to do. And the industry wishes to claim the word ‘professional’.
Rob Long says
Yes Doug, I think what you are talking about is Wisdom, that silent partner to critical thinking and experience. Wisdom is never spoken about in safety but rather the parade of being ‘professional’ is the fixation, at the same time as having no ethic of risk. I empathise with those trapped in the ‘golden handcuffs’ and understand why. I just wish that those who had some power in the industry would listen to the stories of Cog and wish to do something about it but no. As the AIHS Ethic states, comply and duty and there is no Hope in such a message.
Doug Fatches says
I came through the Dupont BS in the 90’s the Zero in the new century, and thankfully besides being qualified in Adult education, My text was George Botham, and now the stinging verse of Rob. I was in trades, maintenance and emergency services and quality, before I was called to safety, as my experiences of harm and my knowledge gave me a belief that, I can make a difference. Only then I got my safety qualification, so in some worlds that makes me different. Experience is not taught in a class room.
As Bernard Corden has said here before me, “Once your integrity is compromised” That surely only occurs for those that don’t have the conviction to start with.
I understand how the “Golden Hand cuffs” can be a lure, When you take on a job in safety, you need to be a “Professional”. I have had younger managers with the advanced diplomas with distinctions, I had conviction and courage.
Keep pressing on and don’t try to sell something you don’t own
Bernard Corden says
Once your integrity is compromised the next step is membership of our peak safety body and professional certification, which teaches you Orwellian doublespeak.
Rob Long says
Cog, what a sad indictment of this industry. And the associations keep their heads in the sand and spruik the word ‘professional’ as much as they like and then do nothing about these deep seated cultural issues that plague the industry. So much denial, delusion and certainly no vision. All so wedded to Zero who dictates their every move.
Part of the answer to questions like “Why do teams of grown adults put up with such childish, kindergarten, patronizing nonsense when it is delivered in the name of safety?” are what you stated Rob; fear. I call them “golden handcuffs”. The money paid to these employees (of all levels, even decision makers) outweighs the ethical stance of doing what is right. Speak out against blatant examples of delusion? Bad grammar? Non-sensical, condescending mantras? That is great, except that you will be a social pariah and looking and/or looking for work in no time. I lose hours of sleep (as do others I know of) because we know the trajectory of zero and yet we also have to feed our families. I know many that would leave the safety trade NOW if there were something else available, but the sad truth is we have allowed ourselves to be clamped in these “golden handcuffs” and survival of ourselves in this environment outweighs what we know to be ethical. I am not proud of being shackled; as I stated it makes me sick to the point of losing sleep EVERY night. But I do not see any hope in this industry of change. Your words are true and backed by evidence. But the cult of Safety helps pay the bills and by the time some understand the evil of zero, we are caught and restrained in “golden handcuffs” and the only way out is a new career (not a realistic option for most) or permanent retirement (again, often not an option for most). Sometimes, I wish I did not know the truth. While it is enlightening and helps me to understand my fellow human beings one on one or in small groups, it also creates a sense of despair in knowing the damage machine that I am part of and helpless to stop. Sometimes, being “dumb” or ignorant is bliss. I suppose philosophically you could ask the question “Would you rather be dumb and happy or smart/informed and consistently in despair?”
Rob Long says
Wynand, I guess when your mortgage depends on it or employment you carry on the facade of compliance that more deeply drives resentment and alienation. Psychology is not a panacea in itself either but more the ability to think critically and envision trajectories of where lots of this safety nonsense is taking us.
I have seen psychology experts (PhD) be so indoctrinated at work that even they started to defend this approach. Imagine someone with a senior qualification in psychology defending and driving BBS, Zero Harm and blind compliance. I have seen this in an environment where critical thinking was seen as an attack on management, and the psychologist supported BBS as culture improvement tool while ignoring the impact of this on the desired company culture of being a learning organisation. I do agree that proper understanding of psychology and learning is seriously lacking and needed in the industry.
Bernard Corden says
That toolbox talk will probably be delivered at the forthcoming AIHS Visions Conference in November and receive critical acclaim for its innovation and creativity.
Rob Long says
Jan Hall says
A pity there were ever qualifications created in “H&S”. Better to study psych, and adult learning and motivation and learn the provisions of the ACT on the job.