The Last Stick Wasn’t Big Enough
Article by Rob Long in response to a recent newspaper article about the need for more vigilance and compliance!!!!
We hear a great deal in the safety industry about compliance and coercion but so little about creative solutions with a sense of imagination. Every time there is another event someone comes out with the bright idea that either we don’t have enough regulation or the last stick wasn’t big enough. This was the case this week with yet another serious incident in my home city. The radio picks up the news and usually gets someone in to provide commentary. Then the airwaves fill with talk back and simplistic nonsense, in total ignorance of all that is known about motivation and behaviour. The moment you suggest there may be other solutions that don’t include regulation or punishment, some bright spark comes out and says you want to do away with systems. It seems like there are more extremists in the safety sector sometimes than a Taliban Glee Club. What is it with this joy for flogging people to obedience? And, it always seems that this joy for more of the ‘big stick’ is the best for other people. We never want the same advice metered out to us.
This week an article was published in Business Day in New Zealand by Rob Stock entitled, ‘Business Needs a Safety Revolution’ (http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/7696287/Business-needs-a-safety-revolution). So, I was enticed by the headline and greatly disappointed by the content. I felt a rare moment of sympathy for our mates ‘across the ditch’ when I read what was proposed. Yes, you guessed it, this revolution was a proposal for more big stick, greater vigilance, more policing and floggings all round. Stock had the obligatory tidy 10 points for this safety revolution that called for ‘more Big Brother’, ‘tougher laws’, ‘bigger fines’, ‘greater prescription’ and greater government control. Marvelous, where does Stock get such revolutionary ideas?
Most people in the safety sector know about Patrick Hudson’s Safety Maturity Matrix, many organisations now use his notion of ‘generative’ in their business name or system. Using the word ‘generative’ has become a yet another mindless yo-yo like fad in the safety sector like ‘zero harm’. It won’t take long and the word ‘generative’ will become meaningless.
It doesn’t matter what word is used for an organisation’s approach to safety, if it remains fixed on compliance-centred minimums, big stick methodology and measuring LTIs as indicators of safety culture, it is a ‘calculative’ organisation. If there were to be a real revolution in business in safety it would be an organisation with the courage to get rid of the clutter not invent more of it. A real revolution would be to find creative and imaginative ways to motivate people to risk and safety ownership, not dependence on more policing and government instrumentalities to do the thinking for us.