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Something Different - Third Generation Safety.

Third Generation Safety – What Safety Can Learn From Neuroscience.

Previously, we dealt with the role of First and Second Generation Safety in improving safety during the last 40 years. For most organisations the best performance they ever had.

But incidents are still happening, even serious ones. And since many of these could not have been prevented by more or better First and Second Generation Safety, we need something different.

Third Generation Safety: Focus on subconscious thinking processes based on neuroscience

Recent research in neuroscience has discovered some exciting things about how the brain functions. Insights which simply weren’t available to us until now.

The most important has been the overwhelming power and dominance of our Subconscious Mind. We know conclusively that although we believe the Conscious Mind controls our decisions, there is significant input from the Subconscious Mind. This is true for all “conscious” decisions. From the simple to the most complex.

Moreover, the input from the Subconscious Mind is greater when we are:

  • Feeling comfortable and safe while involved in routine activities or movements (autopilot mode).

  • Fatigued, and thus have less energy available to our Conscious Mind.

  • Under stress (rushing, frustration, or both) as our conscious processing is bypassed.

Third Generation Safety accepts that we need to work within our cognitive boundaries. It engages people in a very personal manner. When we help others interpret their own life experiences differently, they begin to change their thinking. In turn, they improve their personal safety skills and habits. Put simply:

Third Generation Safety provides a structure for what people refer to as “common sense”.

However, Third Generation Safety is not a “silver bullet”. It is the “missing piece”. It deals with the aspects of being human that First and Second Generation Safety do not address.

Everyone knows that workplaces need to comply with laws and dealing with hazards reduces potential harm. They also know that it is important to influence people to keep safety "front of mind". The problem is that we are only dealing with:

  • The physical environment.

  • People’s knowledge of the remaining hazards.

  • People’s conscious decisions.

This is not everything, something important is still missing. What is that?

Neuroscience tells us that 95% of what we do is subconscious.

Third Generation Safety brings the subconscious thinking processes we all share into play. It engages people so they can begin to manage their cognitive processes more effectively. If people attend the right training and do enough of the right practice, they end up having better personal safety skills and habits, which result in fewer mistakes. This helps them comply more and make better conscious decisions.

But it’s not about whether it should be First, Second or Third Generation Safety. The neuroscience points to the fact that it’s far better when all three work together.


This blog is an excerpt from Third Generation Safety: The Missing Piece by Cristian Sylvestre.

Cristian takes what neuroscience is revealing about how the brain functions, explaining how human performance could impact personal safety and what individuals and organisations can do about it. TO BE RELEASED SOON

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