Safety Entitlement and Compulsory Safety Mis-Education

Safety Entitlement and Compulsory Safety Mis-Education

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school safetyAs things continue to remain unchanged in the safety sphere safety people turn to the schooling system for the next bite at the cherry. Publication of injury statistics of young workers injured at work always seems to spark the crusade for teaching safety in schools yet again. I couldn’t think of anything more mis-educative and damaging to safety than bringing safety into the school curriculum.

Rather than question the fundamental assumptions of perfectionism or re-consider binary thinking, the safety crusade assumes that the problem is early intervention. Rather than look in the safety backyard and question the ineffectiveness of whitecards, inductions and training, the safety crusade would rather do a ‘dumb dump’ on our children. If we only can get safety into the hearts and minds of children and adolescents we will solve the problems of injuries and harm at work, especially of young people.

What is amazing about any safety crusade is the assumption that safety determines entitlement. So without any expertise in child and adolescent development, safety knows best. Without any expertise in schooling and education, safety knows best and without any expertise in curriculum or pedagogy safety knows best. You don’t have to look far for examples. The Hazardman campaign developed by Workafe ACT and endorsed by SafeWork Australia is a classic example of why safety shouldn’t go into schools. The campaign demonstrates the worst of safety entitlement. The Hazardman campaign is not endorsed by the ACT Education Department. Nearly every message in the Hazardman campaign contradicts the very basics of curriculum, pedagogy, learning and, child and adolescent development. The campaign obviously didn’t do its research either as the evidence is clear about the ineffectiveness of such campaigns in the past (eg. Streetwize Comics). The trouble is when you are safety entitled, you don’t have to consult or learn, you already know everything.

One of numerous critical elements in child and adolescent development is ‘readiness’. Giving children and adolescents information for which they are not ‘ready’ is more damaging than helpful. Ineffective information at the wrong age inoculates young learners against later learning. They are then confronted at work by ‘old’ information. They think they already know safety because they have been fed just enough irrelevant information at school.

The trouble with any safety curriculum pushed into schools is the whole problem of understanding regulation. The research is overwhelming that young people are totally disinterested in regulation and know very little about it. This is most evident in their disinterest in the political system. This is despite the fact that Civics Education is thrust into the curriculum at regular stages from Primary School to Year 12. The lack of interest in the political system by young people is ‘palpable’ ( ). Young people are disengaged with the political system despite the flood of material in the curriculum that teaches it ( Yes, but safety is different, we are going to send in the crusaders and make them love and understand regulation. Or, we are going to give them some comic based on 1950s gender stereotypes that teaches them that safety is all about women slipping over in a kitchen ( ). Or, that safety is about wearing a Hard Hat ( I don’t know any teacher in their right mind who would think feeding such rubbish to kids was educational. Or, that you can’t tackle safety unless you are a super hero. Or, that safety is all about hazards and regulation (whilst all the adolescents are challenged by is risk). This is what you get when non-educationalist think they have some entitlement to dump their agenda in schools.

What is fascinating about the call for a safety curriculum in schools is that there is nothing on child and adolescent development in the safety curriculum itself. Safety people don’t learn about learning, they don’t learn about motivation or many of the fundamentals in a teaching degree. There is no curriculum on learning and education in a diploma in safety, and no need to understand curriculum or pedagogy. This is why much safety training is disengaging and mis-educative. Don’t worry about the kids, just try to make safety training relevant and engaging for adults. There is no curriculum on human judgment and decision making in a safety diploma, this is why our post graduate program ( ) is over-subscribed and booming. Safety people are crying out for safety to be made relevant in the workplace, why this crazy preoccupation with wanting to inoculate 16 year olds with ineffective training in an already flooded school curriculum?

How about safety stops talking about curriculum and schools and concentrates more on the social psychology of young workers. How many young people are injured at work because they are misunderstood or bullied? How many young people are injured at work because they are patronized and bored? How many organisations train their managers in understanding and connecting with young people? How many organizations teach their managers about managing and leading Gen Y people as a safety initiative?

No, let’s just get all the binary stuff that doesn’t work for us and dump it on the kids in school. Great idea, NOT!

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

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