Typologies of Safe Behaviors and Safety Programs – Part 2

As discussed in Part 1 of this theme of posts, I started thinking/daydreaming about how to quantify behaviors and programs as they relate to safety. I had previously been interested in the typology of parenting just for personal interest. One morning while making the morning commute, the two began to merge and take some shape. So, I felt the best place to discuss the similarities would be through my blog.

The big question is, “How did I merge these two seemingly unrelated topics?”

One of my biggest pet peeves is the manager that says “safety is just common sense.” It is this thinking that gives the safety profession such a poor name. There are companies that believe that safety is something that is nothing but lip service and common sense. I have a previous post where I really get on that soapbox, so I will spare that rhetoric on this one. The truth is that safety is learned. There is no other way. Even from a early man kind of thought process. There are those that made mistakes that cost them life and limb and then there are those that saw it go bad, made a logical choice to do the same thing, then told others about the problem. I love the history of the chemical elements. It is amazing how the elements were discovered, tested, and utilized. The history of chemistry is rich in safety stories such as these. Early chemists/alchemists used mercury for many experiments and processes. It was through their liberal use, the the rest of the chemical community learned that safety precautions need to be taken in order to prevent going crazy due to the heavy metal building up in the brain. It was the early work, illness, and death of the scientists with the discovery of radionuclides that helped shape safety policy today.

Safety is learned. It is not common sense. It has to be trained and utilized for it to have value for the user.

Another example of how safety is not just common sense relates to hunter safety. Many believe that hunting and fishing are an innate human function that is in correlation to have good real life common sense. The truth is that before someone goes on their first hunting or fishing trip, they are instructed on the safety and methods of the process. Gun safety is of course a number one priority of the education. It also includes, how to protect while in a tree (fall protection), how to field dress the animal (knife use), and moving the animal back to camp. No one is born with this knowledge. It is taught and learned.

The same should be said with any industrial process. Safety is taught and learned. It may seem like common sense for someone who has done it for years, but for others the knowledge is new and unpracticed. A seasoned fortruck operator should know that seat belts are required, how to safely move a load, and how to perform a pre-use inspection. For someone who the process is new to, they need that instruction to help gain that first time information. How would someone know to lockout a machine before maintenance if they had never been instructed? How would someone know how to safely enter a trench if they had never been instructed? It is these same reasons why the statement, “that’s just the way we’ve always done it.” can be so troublesome. Just because that method has seemed to be the right way to do it, does not mean it is. By working toward knowledge and improvement, the safety systems are learned and evolved.

As a parent, I see that it is my job to not instruct my children like a teacher or instructor. It is my job to give them good guidance and information so that they can make good decisions, apply that knowledge, and be safe and successful. If I give my kids lists and lists of dos and don’ts for road safety, they will never take in the essence of the goal of safety. They will use the lists and the one and only method for being safe. If I instruct them to look for the hazards, how to spot the hazards, and the basics of how traffic works; they have a better opportunity to engage that activity with a safety consciousness. Don’t misunderstand, there needs to be hard and fast rules for the road. There also has to be an innate ability to take good information and apply it to a situation to make a good decision. As a parent, there are four typologies that I can fall into based on my style of raising my kids.

When the comparison is made between being a parent and being a safety manager, there are many similarities. Each role is about instructing, improving, and empowering others for safety and success. To me, safety is a life skill that is as important and critical as any other topic. So, the distance to bridge the idea that the four parenting typologies could be used to describe safety is not that large of a gap. They have many similarities especially considering the way that each should be presented. Once we really start diving in to the typologies, the similarities will continue to present themselves, the process will become more apparent, and the overall theme will crystallize. In the next post, I will give an overview and better define of the four parenting typologies.

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