In recent decades, approaches to achieving the goal of zero industrial injuries have been increasingly characterized by sometimes extensive management systems built on rules and procedures.
Seemingly at odds with this, many industries nowadays rely on highly skilled workforces for whom safe work practices are ideally an engrained part of their skillset. For many engaged managers and safety professionals, there is a growing dilemma in the tendency of organizations to view safety as a formalized set of rules and procedures applied in a work environment that also requires employees to make safe, situational decisions in complex, non-textbook (scenarios). There is an increasing perception that these systems and procedures do not always live up to expectations, and that they may even create burdens that inhibit an organization’s ability to look at safety in a positive, engaging way.
In addition, there are still managers and safety professionals who believe that unsafe employee behaviors are the source of all (or most) evil and that the majority of accidents are caused by employees who are just careless.
It should be acknowledged that today’s approaches to safety management do not always instill positive emotions in workers, or managers. Although the goal of safety is unequivocally defined as “going home healthy at the end of each workday”, routinely repeating this mantra has done little overall to foster positive thinking about safety. Instead, remarks such as ”Safety…oh yes, these horrible safety moments we need to have at the beginning of each meeting during which we discuss the emergency exits…” heard in a recent conversation may be more indicative of how many people, including both employees and managers, actually feel about safety in their daily lives. To really achieve lasting change in an organization’s safety culture, it is worth approaching safety in a new way: “Positive Safety”.