“Dangerous Safety Perceptions”
Ref: Shawn M. Galloway; November 2010

Our beliefs affect how we perceive life’s experiences, our safety decisions and the culture in which we work.

Work  cultures are the result of reinforced work practices.

This reinforcement focuses on the continuation of behaviour, values and perceptions. This exemplifies the fact that cultures are, indeed, the ultimate safety sustainability mechanism.

It is, therefore, extremely important to understand and address the five most dangerous perceptions that have proved to be barriers to achieving and sustaining safety culture excellence.

  1. Zero Injury Isn’t Possible. Many multinational organizations have sustained the difficult goal of zero injuries, not that this should be the ultimate measurement of safety excellence. It is, at best, a failure rate and does not promote success-seeking strategies, only failure-avoidance. However, the principle here is, if people do not believe in the destination, especially if they are in a leadership position, the sustainable journey will be an impossible one.
  2. Safety Excellence Means Not Getting Hurt. The belief is created that, “If safety means not getting hurt, then anything that I do that doesn’t get me hurt must be safe.” Unfortunately, this falsity is perpetuated by the way many companies measure safety. Time without incidents reinforces perceptions that it’s acceptable to take a risk, as long as you are not injured. Our attitude towards safety every day is the most important measure of whether we have attained safety excellence or not.
  3. Safety Is Not My Job. Without question, it is the primary responsibility for a company to first create a safe working environment. However, no organization can be safe for the people within it. Each individual needs to recognize the vital precautions they can exercise to minimize their exposure to the risks they face “throughout” life, both on and off the job. Compliance is a shared responsibility and we are all accountable for it. The expectation is for all employees to fully comply 100% of the time!
  4. It Won’t Happen To Me. The vast majority of individuals interviewed following an injury described a similar belief. As organizations improve safety, they tend to reach a safety performance plateau due to their efforts in eliminating high-probability risk. What remains is low-probability risk, which most people are unable to recognize with common sense and experience. Every environment has risks that are impossible to engineer out. This is why complacency becomes a dangerous element. It is critical to maintain a sense of vulnerability. It can happen to us because there is inherent risk in all environments. The challenge lies in our ability to recognize these risks and take personal steps to minimize exposure. Never assume it won’t happen to you! You must be diligent every day with every task. Be aware of what’s going on around you. Many workers, who are working safely, get hurt by co-workers taking short cuts or some other risky behaviour.
  5. We Are Already Good. The average company is quite impressive in their safety performance measurements. There can be a tendency to believe, “We are already good.” This belief is particularly dangerous. Many well-intentioned safety executives will inadvertently create this perception by implementing programs that are not customized to the culture and result in little value recognition. As a result, many feel that there is nothing else that can be done to improve. “It doesn’t matter how good we were yesterday if we are not diligent about the hazards facing us today.”

And a bonus quote from Dr Michael Holt:

“Don’t lose what you have by going after what you want.”

Thanks for the share, TO!