WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO

 

"We've been where you are".

Cristian Sylvestre

I actually started as a Chemical Engineer, but like a lot of people, found my way into safety. Maybe it was my problem-solving background, maybe just my instinct for believing that we can do better, but a little voice in the back of my mind was telling me that something big was missing in safety.

I just couldn’t get out of my head that the safest environment, a tight system or the best safety leadership didn’t always achieve a good safety performance.  I spent 10 years looking for the missing piece. And found it in the studies of brain science.


They showed inattention being part of everyday life for everyone. Sometimes it gets identified as mistakes, human error, misjudgments, miscalculations, etc. – all words for being human.

The research also showed that because attention is a limited resource, we are always inattentive to something. Most people think what we pay attention to is based on risk, the amount of hazardous energy or what's important to us. Sometimes that is true, but not as often as we think.

What we pay attention to the most is what we have conditioned ourselves to pay attention to through repetition. And that is not always the safest. Common everyday examples include people looking at a screen when walking or driving.

Everyone acknowledges that inattention exists, but people think there is nothing we can do about it. Not true. We now know that a safe environment, systems and leadership are good to have, but not enough to help people deal with inattention effectively.

It wasn’t until I understood how inattention came about from the brain science research, that I started to work on what could be done about it. I’ve been at it for 15 years. It’s been pretty successful, so much so that these days that’s all we do.