To Be Safer – More of the Same or Something Different?


To Be Safer – More of the Same or Something Different?

The way we think about safety has evolved over the last 40 years. How have we thought about safety up until now?

First Generation Safety: Focus on hazards and people's knowledge.

We keep people safe by either, eliminating hazards or controlling the remaining ones by providing processes, rules and procedures. It is difficult to hurt someone without a hazard.

But the problem is that we can’t eliminate all hazards. So, we make people aware of what is in our workplaces via inductions and training. The premise here is that if people know what will hurt them they will do the "safe" thing. This works most of the time, but not always.

It is easy to see how this approach drove us towards engineering solutions. The aim of this way of thinking about safety is to control the physical environment. It resulted in effective Safety Management Systems and a focus on compliance.

But what happens if we comply with the Safety Management System and someone still gets hurt, what then?

Enter Second Generation safety.

Second Generation Safety: Focus on making safe conscious decisions by keeping safety “front of mind”.

How do you get people to keep safety “front of mind”?

A common way is to personally demonstrate the importance of safety to people. The two most used approaches are safety leadership programs and safety observation processes. The techniques used come from social science and are typically “framed” in terms of:

  • safety as a value.

  • commitment to safety.

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