Safety is in the making

Are you easily bored?Creative material
Are you willing to take risks?
Don’t like rules?
Do you ask “what if”?
Do you make lots of mistakes?
Do you collaborate?
Are you generous?
Are you independent?
Do you experiment?
Do you motivate yourself?
Do you work hard?
Are you passionate about safety?

Okay, I changed the last one.  The above list has been adapted from the 12 Most Striking Tendencies of Creative People compiled by Kim Phillips.  But I think that it should be a list of the 12 Most Striking Tendencies of Safety Professionals.

In Daniel Hummerdal’s post From constraints to facilitation he talks about a new role for safety.  He encourages us to view safety as a positive value instead of focusing on eliminating unwanted negative events or outcomes.  He also says that as safety professionals we should not tell people what to do to stay safe.  Instead we should be interested and inquisitive about how people go about their work, what they think they need, what resources they have, how people understand dangers in their workplace, and so on.

I agree.  As safety professionals our role is to support people to do their jobs.  To support them in being successful.  It just so happens that our field of expertise is safety but that doesn’t mean that we should have all the answers.  So how can we provide support without having the answer?  By being solution focused.

I believe that our role as safety professionals is to work with people, help them come up with a solution.  We should be thinking outside of the box, tailoring a solution for the particular circumstances, considering their particular needs, all the while drawing on our knowledge and experience.  We should be collaborating, bouncing ideas of each other, generating discussion, connecting people, expanding on ideas and engaging people.  As safety professionals we have so much that we can bring to the table, should be bringing to the table, but answers is not necessarily one of them.

This is why I think that safety professionals need to be creative.  If you think that you can find an answer in a safety management system, if you think that you can find a solution in a safety procedure then you are constraining yourself.  To help create a solution you may have to come up with something that hasn’t been thought of, nor been done before, until you’ve helped facilitate it.

Are you are a creative person who has been drawn to the field of safety?  Has it made you feel out of place?  Just remember the 12th striking tendency of creative people – you aren’t alone.  As Kim Phillips says ‘The good news is that it’s possible for everyone to be creative.  There are creative accountants, creative cooks, creative janitors, creative babysitters.  Any profession or any hobby can be made into a creative pursuit by embracing and using creative traits.’

Do you think that there is a need for creative safety professionals?

2 thoughts on “Safety is in the making”

  1. Hi Zinta, I like your thoughts here. What struck me as I read through your post was how the safety profession is making itself more irrelevant in the eyes of the operational personnel and business because of an absence of creativity.

    Stuck in a paradigm of compliance, rules, boundaries and constraints the safety department is often seen as a hinderance to everyday operations.

    My view is that everyday operations require a degree of creativity by those charged with getting the work done. This creativity happens all the time. There is adaptation, innovation and creative planning that happens all the time, right under the nose of the safety people. Most of this goes unseen, because the worker & supervisor need to keep their creative solutions secret from the safety people. Mostly due to negative consequences for stepping outside safety boundaries. If this creativity and adaptation is seen by the safety person, it is usually dismissed and short-cuts, rule breaking, not caring, being lazy, not having your mind on the job … or my favourite, not caring about your loved ones (but I digress).

    So what we end up with are a group of creative, innovative & adapting workers, who are getting the job done with a myriad of challenges and constraints and a safety department who are stuck in the mire of compliance, audits, checklists and rule following ultimately killing creativity – the very kind that is required to produce what needs to be produced in a complex world.

    This is one of the great dilemmas that safety practice must tackle in the years ahead. How do we merge the idea of ‘safety’ and ‘creativity’? Creativity by its very nature means taking a risk, thinking outside the box and working ‘on the edge’. At the moment ‘safety’ and ‘creativity’ are a contradiction in the minds of many I suspect. Thus we see the same solutions, strategies and ideas under a different name or brand recycled as the latest ‘simple & creative’ solution to a complex challenge.

    Cheers

    1. Hi Lincoln,
      I wish that you could have heard me laugh as I was reading your comment. My favourite part was the vision of workers and supervisors hiding their creative solutions from safety people. It is so true. I agree with you that merging safety and creativity is a great dilemma that we have to tackle. I wonder if people think that only artists are creative. As you know this is not the case. Now all we have to work out is how to show them.

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