Many safety professionals started their careers in the trades. They might have been an electrician, carpenter, or other trade prior to becoming a safety professional.

This is one story about growing safety effectively:

I have worked in safety for over 10 years. Previously, I was an electrician, so I see safety through the eyes of the field worker. As I visit different jobs today, I see one common thread in our profession: a lack of self-awareness. We often don’t consider our part in the safety process. Are safety professionals safe?

Through the years I’ve worked with some wonderful safety professionals who have taught me great techniques for dealing with people. Unfortunately, many people in safety have created a compliance vibe which produces a lack of trust and an unwillingness to communicate.

I am constantly trying to repair the relationships this attitude impacted on the workforce.

I have worked with safety professionals who are very skilled at analyzing objective data yet do not understand the importance of also looking at each situation subjectively.

Today we are often so focused on data we have created a false sense around compliance. We check the boxes, but we no longer effectively mitigate risk.

Have you ever wondered why it can be challenging to find out about incidents?

Maybe the communication breakdown is because Safety isn’t Safe.

Like many people, I find it difficult to openly communicate with people I don’t trust and respect. I have seen this on job sites where the employees did not share information because they didn’t trust the intent of the safety people they worked with. There is a culture of avoidance instead of transparency.

This is a “people problem” not a safety problem.

A culture is created by people, not by rules and regulations. When I worked with my tools the only safety professionals who made a difference were the ones who understood my reality in the field. They made safety subjective; they did it differently.

They remembered something about me, so I remembered something about them. This impacted my behavior when no one was watching. The respect was mutual, and the impact was long term.

As a profession, we have a tremendous opportunity to impact the effectiveness of safety. We can be respectful, approachable, and kind.

We can make safety safe!

 Article Written By: Robert McNeal, Regional Safety Manager with AvalonBay


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