Safer workplaces start with failure

Safer workplaces start with failuresafety failure

An interesting article by Trinette, first published HERE


Safer workplaces always get there by failing first.

When we compare workplaces to determine which one is safer, we often think the employer has got everything all ‘honkey dory’.  However, we couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right first time.” -Tim Harford

As I go into workplaces around the nation, I find safety professionals worst enemies are their egos.  It seems as soon as something goes wrong we tend to put up our defense mechanisms and try to save what reputation we have.

I’ve seen this with safety professionals developing laborious and difficult to implement safety systems.  It’s there when we walk around observing workers in a workplace and blame ‘them’ (the workers) for not acting safely.

As soon as something goes wrong, rather than adapting and searching for opportunities, we reel around and look for the first person to blame.

As a child, my parents always said we need to admit when we did something wrong or made a mistake.  I guess with 5 children, they wanted to get to the root of the problem early, and without the ‘fluffing’ around!  I don’t blame them.

It is hard to admit when we’ve made a mistake.  If we’ve had an incident in the workplace, it’s possibly easier to blame the person who was injured or to fault the equipment or workplace.  Is it denial that’s making us do this, or laziness or pride?

I often think the same has applied to safety management in the workplace.  Our technical expertise has spanned many years.  We’ve passed the technical and theoretical knowledge down the line to future safety professionals.  Of course, we’ve all been trained at universities and highly reputable registered training organisations, so of course, what we say to employers is correct.

Or are we just ‘fluffing our own feathers’?  Maybe we’ve lost our critical thinking ability to question and adapt to the complex world we live in.  Many people in the workplace have had it drummed into them to keep their workplace safe and they are not to have accidents.  However, when there is an accident, I also see these same workplaces fearful of investigating or they hide what has happened.  They are too scared the regulator may find out they’ve done something wrong or they may get the ‘sack’.

We should be promoting and encouraging an experimental approach to find out what went wrong.  If we don’t fail it’s difficult to succeed and do better next time.

The Recipe for Success

Over the years, I’ve seen employers using traditional controls to manage risks in their business.  It’s almost like the responses to hazards are automatic.

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