Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Some Resources for the Safety Professional

Last night some of our folks attended a presentation where the speaker made the valid point that most safety professionals lack a solid foundation of fundamental knowledge that safety professionals should have and seem to believe many ideas that safety professionals just should not believe. We couldn’t agree more – our profession is broken and needs to be fixed.

But how?

That question is the key question that we must answer. Most safety professionals we’ve spoken to agree that the profession is in need of repair, but when we start talking about solutions everyone has their own preferences and sore points that get in the way of consensus. We just can’t seem to agree on who we are as a profession. Is it about certifications? What about education? Surely, a safety professional needs experience, right?

Part of the problem, from our perspective at least, is that “who we are” mostly comes from “what we do”. Another way of saying this is that a profession has an agreed upon body of knowledge that informs our actions, which then defines what qualifications we need. Surely safety has been around long enough to have an agreed on body of knowledge right?

Once again though, our profession falls short. The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has their own Body of Knowledge, but this is not really a professional body of knowledge in our opinion, because anyone can post anything. There’s no real peer review process, so how do we know that the information on there is true? And this is consistent with the bulk of the information we’ve found in the safety profession – the only evidence most use to “prove” that what they are doing or will do is effective is either anecdotes (“this worked for me, so it will work for you”) or marketing materials (“this worked for all these other customers, so it will work for you”). Neither of these make us into a knowledgeable profession, and, for a profession that claims to be having a hand in the saving of people’s lives, for us to base our interventions on spurious evidence is borderline unethical.

So where’s a safety professional to go to get good information? Here’s some resources for your consideration.

Looking for a pretty good safety body of knowledge? The Safety Institute of Australia developed this one (and updates it periodically). The information about regulations is obviously specific to that country, but the general information about safety is overall good and all chapters are peer reviewed, giving the information more credibility.

Did you know that there are actual academic, peer-reviewed journals where people and publish safety related research papers? If you’re like most, the answer to that question is “no”. But there are lots. Looking to implement a safety incentive program? Why not see what the actual peer reviewed research has to say about it? Here are a few of our favorite journals (but there are many more):

Having trouble engaging with your workforce or looking to implement a cultural intervention? Why just look in safety related journals? There are plenty of great journals out there. Here’s some databases you can use to search for a journal to help you solve any organizational problem you may have:

Finally, nothing can replace the synergy of individuals getting together to share ideas. Here are two conferences outside of the normal safety conferences (e.g. ASSE, NSC) that we recommend you look at:

Note that we have no vested interest in any of the above journals or conferences. We just believe that safety professionals need good resources to get the information they need. Without that information how can we expect to move forward?

What other quality resources are out there for safety professionals?

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