Safety Makes It So Easy to Fool People

imageSafety Makes It So Easy to Fool People

I wish I had thought of this! In what most would expect to see on April Fools Day, this sign went up on Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia on 26th January (Australia Day – which is probably just as appropriate as there are still some subversive wags left in this world!).

The photo put up on Facebook was brilliantly timed and set up with a real but unwitting Police Officer captured standing in the back ground – it doesn’t get any better than this if you want to enact a new safety rule!

Sydney journalist Siobhan Moylan from meanwhileinoz.com.au reports that:

The image has sent social media into a spin, with commenters at a loss as to what it’s all about.

‘Sydney’s gone TOO FAR this time. This is the nanny police state goose stepping too far off-beat. Pull ur (sic) head in,’ one commenter wrote.

‘The government website doesn’t work so it could be real,’ another said.

Others welcomed the move with open arms, suggesting the council should take the crackdown one step further.

‘License would be a good idea – need to weed out the irresponsible joggers who ruin it for everyone else.’

Even on networks frequented by ‘Safety Professionals’ there was equal amounts of perplexity, support and outrage – but most lay down and assumed it was real and switched to talking about important stuff like designing a new jogging helmet. Even the social commentary geniuses on social media soon forgot about this and went back to their cat videos.  I imagine if you worked in the Mining or Construction Industries you would not have questioned this for a moment as it is probably quite normal compared to the ‘safety’ you are used to?

More from MeanwhileinOz which sums it up nicely and I hope the regulators get the message:

Ms Moylan said the sad thing about the sign was how plausible it is in Sydney’s current climate. She suspects the signs are a Banksy-esque prank, but believes they strike a chord at a time Sydney is under oppressive regulations.

‘It talks to the point that people now laugh in the face of ridiculous authoritarian Orwellian rules,’ Moylan said.

‘The sad thing is that Sydney has got to such a state of oppression that one really does have to wonder if it’s real.’

We see the same thing happen at work and we have written many times before about how easy it is for poor leaders to get things done by just invoking safety in the name of The Regulations. As Dr Rob Long wrote in Masking Politics With Safety “There is nothing more annoying and destructive for the positivity of safety than some gutless management hiding behind the aversion of risk and invoking some petty safety regulation to mask real political intent.”

Its been confirmed now that this initiative was a prank but what if it was real? What are the dangerous by-products of such a rule? If it were real then who would have questioned it? I think the ‘outrage’ would have subsided and we would all just shrug and comply whilst deep down we felt just that little bit dumber and sadder that our lives have become so oppressed.

Safety people often lament that it is so hard to introduce a new safety initiative and get compliance – surely the above example shows that this is a good thing? Safety people should be more worried when people don’t question and just blindly comply – they will likely be doing the opposite behind your back and in the lunch room!

You should encourage people to question the motives and trajectories of all new safety initiatives and discuss the possible by-products and trade-offs, you should question them yourself or you can imagine what Safety will be for our next generation. Rob Long wrote in Nudge Nudge, Wink Wink – Improving Safety the SMART Way

The best question any safety person can ask is: where is this taking us? If this question was asked more by safety people we might not be bogged down in so much ineffective junk. Understanding the trajectory of safety initiatives is so important and should be the main task of being safety focused.

Once silly safety rules are implemented, with no consultation or critical thinking, then the same weak leaders who enacted them will surely not be brave enough to retract them!

Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below