Banishing the “Safety Unclean”

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How should we tackle people who show little or no regard for safety norms?

Recently a Facebook special interest page which I subscribe to raised an issue suggesting that people who post pictures depicting poor site safety should be banished from the group and made to walk with a sign around their neck stating that they are a danger to society (OK I am just joking about that last bit).

I was against banning the people and suggested that we should rather be posting positive comments about the lack of safety and make suggestions about how safety could be improved. My suggestion was met mostly with support but there were others who still called for a ban on the “great safety unclean”.

Perhaps this is a reflection of what happens in the real world where people are found doing something unsafe and the immediate reaction is to scold them and put them back to work; and nothing is done to address the causes of the unsafe behaviour or conditions.

Recently I was on a compliance inspection in the “developing economy” where I work; when we came into one section of the worksite and found about ten people chipping away at concrete to expose “couplers” in previously installed re-bar. These workers were on their haunches and all around them was 10mm re-bar which was at about the same height as their faces and eyes. The contractor’s site safety manager’s first response was to instruct them to bend the re-bar over away from the work area as per my suggestion: My immediate reaction was to stop them from complying with this instruction!

I wanted them to do it differently because I had a feeling that the workers were not too sure why we were asking them to bend the re-bar and probably thought it was just this “meddling ex-pat” wanting to create extra work… after it appeared that they couldn’t see anything wrong – and that was exactly the problem… They couldn’t recognise the hazard!

We spent just a minute or two gathering them all together and gave them a quick explanation of what the hazard was and how to fix it… job done!

As managers and safety professionals we should always take the time to explain the hazards we have identified and the reasons for rectifying them… either before rectification or immediately after fixing them, depending on the urgency… it only takes a minute but it is a minute well spent.

So back to Facebook… should we unilaterally banish peddlers of unsafe photos to the safety wilderness or do we take them to one side and embrace them with advice? If we take the latter course of action we have the opportunity to reach out to others with similar poor safety standards.

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Banishing the “Safety Unclean”

3 thoughts on “Banishing the “Safety Unclean”

  1. I can’t agree more with what you have said. It is very easy to blame a worker when they do things wrong. Having worked in the Middle East and recently coming back to the UK, unfortunately not all the workers understood why they were doing things wrong as they had never done it before. Like you, my approach was talking with them, explaining why they can’t do it that way and suggest a better and safer way. So rather than shout, explain. Its really not difficult. You may say the UK workers are better educated? Iin some cases I would agree, however, that doesn’t mean to say that all workers know how to do it correctly and everyone still needs support and explanations. Its just having that passion to take the time to explain and want to make a different. Thats my humble opinion for a Monday morning.

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      1. This is the first time I’ve commented on safety as I believe there are so many different opinions people have and you can very easily get into a debate with no outcome. But I commented because I completely agree that “if” you are a Health and Safety professional then you must have passion for peoples safety and for supporting and educating (touching on behavioural safety) – if not…. then I would question if they are in the right profession or just “taking the money”.

        Liked by 1 person

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