New New Year’s Resolutions for Safety Professionals

By Phil La Duke

Note: I am posting a couple of days early since so many are eager for resolutions.

Four years ago I posted New Year’s resolutions for Safety Professionals and it continues to get a lot of traffic this time of year. I while I still believe the resolutions I wrote back then are important, I think it’s high time I update them. So here are my resolutions for Safety Professionals for 2017:

Resolution #1: Less Focus Teaching And More on Coaching

We tend to train workers and then cut them loose into the workplace. From learning to walk to learning the most complex thing we know, we didn’t learn it by sitting in a classroom listening to an expert prattle on and on. Furthermore, we didn’t learn it in a single event. We as safety professionals have to team with the training professionals to construct adult learning that leverages structured coaching (not shadow training). We need to provide workers with feedback, but not in the cheese-ball safety observation way, but in a way that verifies that the workers’ truly understand how to do the job correctly (which by definition means safely).

Resolution #2: Wage War On Complaceny

In my 2013 post I discussed the dangers of complacency. In my opinion complacency around safety (“we’re safe enough since we didn’t kill anyone recently”) is the number one threat to worker well being in the coming year, but it’s not worker complacency it’s organizational complacency. We’ve been so busy congratulating ourselves on the great job we’re doing that we have become blasé about the dangers of non-standard work or even overt risks in our workplace.

Resolution #3: Less Observation More Conversation

Despite the years of effort and reams and reams of virtual trees killed condemning traditional BBS, pockets still exist. Stop having people watch coworker work and engage workers in meaningful conversations about safety. Find out what keeps them up at night and what they are tired of reporting and being ignored. Treat adults like grown ups and they will surprise you.

Resolution #4: Unify

No one can argue like a safety professional. We need to find a path to unification and concentrate on the things on which we can all agree instead of the things on which we don’t. From the outside looking in, we look like a bunch of childish boobs who can’t even agree on the simplest lexicon; this most stop.

Resolution #5: Do It Because It’s Right

Too often we fall into the trap where we default to the “the law tells we have to” which begs the question, “what if we don’t?” Instead we need to be led by our own (and the company’s) values. Never tell your leaders, “this is the right thing to do” because it implies a moral superiority on your part. Instead, you might try saying, “I will prefer to be guided by our shared values”. It’s tough for a leader to say, “to hell with our values, let’s do the bare minimum.” If you are guided by your values you will never disappoint yourself.

Resolution #6: Do It Right

Do your job. I have always said the key to success is to get half the people in the organization to do their jobs, half the time. But that’s not enough when it comes to safety, we also need to do our job correctly.

Resolution #6: Embrace the “Healthy” Side of Health and Safety

I think that this particular resolution that I wrote in 2012 is still germane to safety so I am carrying it over. There are a lot of safety professionals who have the word Health (or at least the initial H) in their titles. But even though it is ostensibly the responsibility of the Safety professional, scare little is done to improve the physical condition of the workers.  Even if there isn’t budget for improving worker health there is certainly a financial incentive for improving worker health.  Sometimes workers resent campaigns aimed at getting them healthier. Safety professionals should resolve to reduce the stress in the workplace and to make worker’s lives better by keeping them healthier and feeling better.

Resolution #7: Find the Balance

I’ve met too many safety professionals who are so devoted to the safety of others that they lose sight of their own well-being. Next year find the work-life balance that works not only for you, but for those around you. You’re job is important but you can’t do it well unless you learn how to balance all the important things in your life.

Resolution #8: Drive the Lunatics Out of Safety

We have been running from the LinkedIn bullies, safety snake-oil salesmen, and out-and-out ranting lunatics for too long. I can think of at least 10 of the top minds in safety who have been driven from LinkedIn because of honest to God mentally ill people who use Social Networking as there own deranged soap box. We can no longer sit idly by as our profession is highjacked by these social maladroits, pompous windbags, and profiteers. We need to report them to LinkedIn, we need to write to the safety associations and let them know that speakers selling their Big Red Book Of Nonsense aren’t technical sessions they are commercials. Finally we need to make it clear that while thought provocation is appropriate personal insults, death threats, and email comments that look like they have been written by a meth head baboon (which go, in the case of one who I am sure is reading this) directly into the spam folder unread by me. We have to confront these trolls even when the comments aren’t directed at us unfriend them, stop following their Tweets, block them from LinkendIn and rid the profession of them forever, in other words we need to group up.

Peace unto all of you and happy new year.

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