By Jason A. Maldonado, republished with his permission and first published Here: https://relentlesssafety.com/safety-is-a-ghost/ (some other great articles on that site as well including https://relentlesssafety.com/ridiculous-claims-of-safety/ )
My wife is gone. She left in a packed car and drove back to Tennessee to be with her parents.
Until Tuesday. And the car wasn’t hers. She’s just helping out a friend get back on her feet after a rough breakup (my wife’s a much better person than I could ever hope to be). It just so happens that her friend’s parents also live in Tennessee. So, she got to help her friend, and see her family.
What that means for me is that I have until Tuesday to clean up the mess that the kids and I have left scattered around the house. If not she might actually pack up her car and leave. Seriously. It looks like we’ve been robbed by someone covered in glitter and tiny scraps of construction paper.
Aside from highlighting my lack of housekeeping skill, the alone time has given me the chance to do two things: 1) watch terrible horror movies my wife won’t tolerate & 2) finally learn how to put my daughter’s hair in a ponytail (I’m pretty proud of that one).
I started the movie binge last Friday night when I stayed up after everyone else had gone to bed. Having spent the early part of the evening Tetrising all of my wife’s friend’s belongings into her tiny Mazda, I chose to unwind by watching Jigsaw. I regret every minute of that decision.
The movie was terrible, but it got me thinking
Anyone who’s ever suffered through a Saw movie knows that they revolve round an evil genius who puts immoral people (his opinion) through grizzly tests designed to get them to confess their sins. I couldn’t help but see the safety parallels. And not just the obvious ones like how putting your face into a rotary saw is not a smart decision.
My thoughts drifted away from the laughably terrible movie as the hours droned on. In it’s place I started to think about all of the times people find themselves up against insurmountable obstacles. In those times, as in the movie, safety is not guaranteed. Only the resilient make it through. The weak are subject to a collar of lasers that will flay their heads into something resembling the tendrils of an octopus (seriously, it’s a terrible movie, don’t waste your time).
At the end of this particular movie (spoiler alert), no one is left in a good position. Everyone except the bad guys dies. It was a glum way to end a Friday night, but the thought occurred to me that life is eerily similar. No one gets out alive.
On that positive note… Happy Halloween everyone!
OK, so the movie sucked. Hopefully you’ll take my word for that. There was a good takeaway though. It reminded me how immeasurable safety is. Stick with me on this one.
No one in the film had a guarantee of survival, right? They were all captured by a madman and put through some awful trials designed to test their resolve. But the riddles were beyond reason. Essentially, if a character didn’t understand what the antagonist was after, they were doomed to die. Safety was only available to those who exercised precise judgement at the precise time it was required. And no one had the knowledge or skill to make those judgments.
Regardless of the nonsensical nature of the movie, that principle is a pretty accurate representation of how safety really works. It’s only available at the one point in time you need it. It’s a present state of being. Put another way, safety only truly exists (or ceases to) in the moment. Any attempt to measure safety is just describing a ghost from the past.
If more people thought about it in that manner, how might our organizations do things differently? Would we invest more in the tools and knowledge our workers need in order to make those precise judgments? Or would we keep chanting about how we’re so awesome because our injury rates are low? I’d like to hope for the former.
Oh and by the way… wish me luck. I just realized it’s Tuesday!
Hi. I’m Jason. I’m the author of the book A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit from CRC Press. I’m excited to get to share it with you all and hope it will be as valuable a tool to you as it has been to me. There is no other safety book out there like it. That’s not me being arrogant and assuming you’ll love it. You might not. But at least we’ll be able to have a needed conversation about the change needed in the safety profession. It is available now! Email me at