The Exploration

file000541344089Recently I was leafing through a magazine while waiting patiently for my  morning caffeine hit and noticed that  nearly every second page seemed to contain advertising for the latest, most stylish designer wristwatches.

It struck me that they  all fulfilled one basic need, that is to inform the wearer of the time of day. They can also provide a plethora of information to the user from fitness to entertainment. So what started as a basic need to be aware of the time of day for planning  nomadic activities by observing the stars, changes in seasons and day and night has progressed through iterations from low tech solutions like sticks in the ground to reflect shadows  through to a cesium fountain atomic clock and countless devices in between.

I then thought of the discussions I had just had with many of my line leaders and safety team members following a day where I had invited them to keep an open mind; to be willing to  challenge  their current OHS thinking and to be willing to think creatively and differently about Safety. The day involved an introduction to the concepts of Safety I and Safety II, and while it was certainly confronting to many there was also an appetite to learn more, and requests tell them how to apply these newly discovered ideas.

I was certainly encouraged by these requests and excited by the prospects of developing the next stages of our safety journey but while enthusiasm and appetite for change is one thing,  the old habits of  a hard core manufacturing environment and the uncertainty of embracing change in safety thinking  is another.

So why is it that while  two basic needs have remained the same; the need to be aware of the time of day, and in the case of safety; the reduction in unwanted outcomes ; the willingness to accept, embrace or even seek out change appears to be quite dissimilar.

What are the differences in ‘selling’ the ways to satisfy these basic needs. Why does one succeed and why is the other less successful. The same people who were wearing the latest time pieces or who had even discarded these for the latest app. were the same people who had not been exposed to the  similar ‘selling’ of safety methodologies but were continually trained, retrained and some would say bludgeoned with the same old, if sometimes rebranded, messages.

So back to my Safety groups with the challenge. If we can tell the time using an analog or digital display, an app or even by going outside and looking at the position of the sun in the sky, why do we always need to look at Safety using the ‘same old’ tools and methods. Why cant we challenge ourselves to look at Safety Differently.

  • Lets start the journey with a few simple ideas and grow from there,  transforming the focus of Safety from negative to positive.
  • Lets think about our language – don’t be negative – don’t ask ‘ what went wrong’, but ask ‘why do were usually get it right’.
  • Lets have a reverse toolbox meeting (do it at the end of the shift) and ask ‘what did we learn/do today that made the task easier, more effective and efficient.
  • Lets ask ‘what did I do well today – what made me feel good about my job’.

The exploration of Safety Differently has begun.



  1. Paul Bussey Reply

    Great message. I have written a book for the Royal Institute of British Architects which introduces the Safety II approach. The positive safety messages are essential for the creativity of architects to thrive. They have historically been constrained by elimination of risk and associated bureaucracy of risk aversion.
    You have given me the language and insight to change this negative mindset
    Paul Bussey

  2. William R. Corcoran, PhD, PE Reply

    Safety I and Safety II

    Safety I and Safety II is a recent initiative in safety thinking.

    In short, Safety I is preventing future unwelcome safety outcomes by learning from previous unwelcome safety outcomes, and Safety II is preventing future unwelcome safety outcomes by learning from welcome safety outcomes.

    Safety I and Safety II is not the first initiative in new thinking.

    What does it remind you of?

    What are its attributes?

    What attributes does it have in common with previous new thinking initiatives?

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