Accept the Safety Gospel or be Damned!
Some Thoughts About “Absolutes”
At one time or another every professional, regardless of their vocation, has sat through that one conference call. You know the one. It’s the hour-long, self-righteous diatribe hosted by some under-qualified boob sitting in a cubicle who’s trying not to talk too loud and disturb those around him. That courtesy is not extended to his victims on the phone, however. Those unfortunate souls have to listen to his bullshit.
I’ve taken many an eyes-open nap during such “collaboration” sessions. Were it not for the ability to snidely text my fellow victims with strings of inappropriate emoji combinations, those meetings would be unbearable.
Before I get too far off track, let me give you a better smell of what I’m about to step into. This isn’t a rant about the ineffectiveness of conference calls (or meetings in general for that matter). That is a debate upon which someone else can take up the mantle. I don’t have the patience or attention span for it. Though I prefaced this post with a specific example, I’m more interested in talking about the content of “that one meeting.” For the sake of my argument, such content could come from any discussion where someone is granted a captive audience and uses that time to grandstand.
How many safety consultants do you know that shouldn’t even be allowed to charge $0.05?
I’ll cut to the chase: Any time someone stands up on their soapbox and says you can only do something one way or you’re wrong, they lose all credibility. That might sound like a hypocritical statement coming from a blog that’s intended to put a spotlight on incorrect thinking but consider the objective. My goal in posting these articles is to call out the ineffective and downright stupid practices that are perpetuated within the safety profession. I do my best to offer solutions or alternative methods, but by no means am I so arrogant as to believe my way is the ONLY way. I want to start conversations that very few seem to be willing to have. Many of the topics I have covered (and plan to cover in the future) barely garner a mention in the “safety pro” circles. When they do, the usual result is one side getting pissy and then taking their ball and going home.
You’re Not A Robot, Quit Nodding
Let me give you a nice, shiny example of what I’m describing. I recently sat through one of “those calls” during which I wanted to dig my eyes out with a spoon and stuff them into my ear holes so that I could no longer hear, nor see what was happening (it was a webinar). Toward the end, the great philosophizer in charge made the very pointed assertion that you could not be a good safety professional unless you truly believed ALL ACCIDENTS ARE PREVENTABLE!
You can believe that if you want. There are many who do. Some even have good arguments for their case. But to assert that belief in something is the one benchmark to success in this field is downright ludicrous. Especially something that is near impossible/difficult at best to prove . I won’t veer too far off the path, but it’s important enough to pause here for a moment. Accident’s don’t just happen because someone was too ignorant to believe their eradication was possible. Many times they happen because workers are imperfect beings who are required to process imperfect information, which in turn leads them to make imperfect decisions. No amount of faith will change that.
If you aim to make a difference in this field, your best bet is to ditch the preaching and figure out where those accidents are likely to occur. If you do that, you at least have a fighting chance to minimize their consequences.
Until we can get off the phone, out of our offices, and out to the places where real life is happening we will continue to fall short. How long are we going to sit back and stroke our Safety Professional egos with slogans and talking points that don’t make any difference to the people doing the real work on our job sites? You can sit back and proclaim the gospel of Safety Jesus for as long as you like, but until we do something that matters (collectively, as a profession), that worker whose paycheck is based on tools and back-breaking labor won’t give two shits about anything we have to say.
If you like the content in these posts, please let me know. Let’s start a conversation and change this profession for the better.
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