The time for both acceptance and tolerance within the safety space has well and truly passed. So, it is with an unapologetic language and tone, that I pen the following. This message needs to be heard—and MUST be said.
Since the 1980s, safety has transformed and grown into a behemoth that not only plagues industry but is subtly losing the battle on various fronts. Regulatory authorities continue to expand their control and are escalating penalties to unprecedented levels. However, despite these regulated and dramatic measures, work-related incidents show no signs of abating. In fact, our analysis of global incident rates reveals a startling truth: not only have incidents plateaued, but in some industry sectors, they are actually rising. The reasons behind these failures are as plain as the noses on our damn faces!
Safety management systems have become bloated, complex, difficult to navigate, and not written for those they’re designed to protect. The real experts, those who perform the work day in and day out, are being sidelined, and their invaluable insights are ignored. The relentless influx of documentation, forms, and checklists has suffocated workers under mountains of paperwork, eroding productivity and paving the way for dangerous shortcuts. Safety professionals writing systems that only safety professionals can understand! Seriously?
It’s time to cease the creation of new programs, countless acronyms, and even further resistance to safety. The time has well and truly arrived for us to engage meaningfully, communicate better, and provide smarter tools if we genuinely want safer workplaces. Overwhelming evidence supports this, yet the safety industry remains deaf to the call. Why? Because safety has become a self-serving monster, generating solutions to issues that don’t exist, to justify its very existence.
I once consulted for a company with a safety management system spanning eight massive 3-ring-binder volumes, written by no less than 6 safety ‘professionals’ over the course of 5 years, and a company with only 800 employees. Navigating this labyrinthine beast was an almost impossible task, and comprehending its contents required the prowess of a Harvard-qualified lawyer. Does this make any sense?
True safety revolves around people, their values, their relationships, communication, and systems that speak human, not bureaucratic or safety gibberish. Who are we truly trying to protect? Office workers from a paper cut or those who face genuine danger and risk every single day they step foot on the job? It is time we bloody well diluted these convoluted systems and abandoned the approach that merely satisfies regulatory regimes, corporate ass-covering, and narratives that serve little to no value.
Compliance is so last millennium. Commitment, care, communication, and the involvement of every single individual is the direction safety MUST take—and soon. There is no excuse for anyone to go to work and be exposed to the risk of injury or worse. We possess the knowledge, the tools, and the lessons. It is time to shake off our self-importance and make safety an intrinsic, invaluable component of every part of our business.
The world is rapidly shifting and fragmenting, and we cannot afford to let the same happen to the safety of people at work. When people come to work, it’s our duty, our responsibility, to exhaust every resource at our disposal to ensure their safe return home. The era has come to rid safety of unnecessary bullshit and noise and transform it into something truly meaningful for “everyone.”
Part 1: A Monster’s Emergence
As stated earlier, safety, once a noble pursuit, has mutated into a fearsome monster—a product of its own creation and one that breeds resistance. Since the 1980s, safety has grown exponentially, swallowing industries whole. Regulatory authorities, attempting to rein it in, have only fuelled its insatiable appetite. Their expanding authority and increasingly severe penalties have failed to yield the desired outcome: a significant reduction in work-related incidents. Instead, incident rates continue to plateau and even rise, defying expectations. It is time to ask ourselves WHY.
Part 2: Complexity Breeds Disaster
One of the key issues lies in the tangled mess of safety management systems. What was meant to safeguard, has become an intricate web of complexity that ensnares the very people it was designed to protect. Instead of consulting the real experts—the people who perform the work every day—decisions are made by detached bureaucrats and self-serving safety ‘administrators’. The result? A disconnection from purpose, and a dangerous divergence from what safety should truly look like and achieve.
Part 3: Suffocated by Paperwork
Documentation, forms, and checklists have become shackles that bind the workforce. They drown people in an ocean of paperwork, diverting their attention from the real tasks at hand: performing their jobs safely and efficiently. Productivity suffers under this bureaucratic onslaught, forcing people to take shortcuts just to keep their heads above water. Let’s face some real truths now, have you ever seen safety take precedence over productivity or profits? The systems intended to protect people become the very catalyst for their potential demise.
Part 4: A Monstrous Distraction
New programs, acronyms, and never-ending safety initiatives are akin to feeding steroids to the monster. They fuel its insatiable hunger for growth, further burying the core values and principles that should guide safety practices and, behaviour. Safety has devolved into a self-serving beast, constantly creating solutions to issues that don’t exist, to justify its place and validate its worth. Meanwhile, incidents and injuries continue to torment workplaces, worldwide.
Part 5: Time for a Radical Shift
We must act now, without delay. The path to safer workplaces lies in meaningful engagement, effective communication, and practical tools. The evidence supporting this shift is overwhelming, yet industry remains stubbornly resistant to this desperately needed shift. We must remove the antiquated compliance mentality and embrace a new approach of commitment, care, and collaboration. Safety should no longer be an add-on; it must permeate every fiber of our business.
Part 6: The Human Focus
True safety is about people—those who face genuine danger and risk daily, not those seeking refuge from paper cuts. Safety is not a labyrinthine system requiring a law degree to navigate; it should be a language that speaks to everyone. It requires care, fostering relationships, and effective communication to thrive. We must protect those who truly need it, by firstly stripping away the unnecessary layers of bureaucracy and bullshit.
Safety cannot be just another burdensome box to tick. It is our collective responsibility to safeguard every individual who comes to work. We possess the knowledge, have the tools, and understand the challenges, so let’s purge safety of the unnecessary noise and BS that has distorted and diluted its very intent, for the sake of those who genuinely, rely on us!
Time to make safety about what really matters! firstname.lastname@example.org