Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What is “Safety”? – Part 2 (Holiday Edition)

People aren’t used to giving praise for reliability. Since they see nothing when reliability is accomplished, they assume that it is easier to achieve reliability than in fact is true. As a result, the public ignores those who are most successful at achieving reliability and gives them few incentives to continue in their uneventful ways. – Karl Weick

We love the quote above because it contains so much truth. Substitute the word “safety” for “reliability” and read it again. In one of our previous blogs we spoke about a different definition for safety and the need to stop defining safety based on what doesn’t happen (accidents/incidents). As Karl Weick also said, safety (or “reliability, to use his term) is a “dynamic non-event.” Safety is a whole of things happen to ensure that the bad things don’t happen.

When you start to look at safety that way some interesting implications come to light. For example, first of all, if safety is about what is happening then that should change the focus of the safety profession. We often spend a lot of time being reactive, focusing on that one time when things went wrong. But most of the time things don’t go wrong. Is it possible that if we analyze the 9,999 out of 10,000 times things don’t go wrong (i.e. we have an accident) that we might learn some interesting things about what creates safety on a daily basis?

But that discussion we’ll leave for another day. What the above quote means to us today during this holiday season is that there is a whole lot going on to make our lives better that goes unnoticed. So, this holiday, take a moment to think about those people out there who are going the extra mile to make us safer – the unsung heroes who do their inspections thoroughly every day or who resist the intense pressures to rush to increase productivity in order to ensure that the job is done safely. Think of all the countless lives that have been saved. Think of all the people who get to go to work each day because their businesses weren’t shut down due to accidents, disasters, or regulatory citations. Take a moment to thank them for what they do every day to make safety a “dynamic non-event.”

And if you’re one of those people out there making the world a safer place for us – from all of us at SCM, thank you! You deserve so much more recognition than you get.

Happy holidays to you and your families!


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