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Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know

July 28, 2013

safety devil 3

By; Wayne J. Harris

Since its Sunday, I thought I would put a few words together to make people think a little bit differently when then go back to work.

If we look at how many people work on a day-to-day basis it is often geared around a mundane sequence of actions and events. So it’s no surprise that complacency strikes and incidents will eventually start to occur. Let’s take a very simple reality check on what tends to happen. If someone is used to working the same way over a period of time they fall into a comfort zone. The individual is more concerned with just getting by and completing the day’s work. In their mind they think why rock the boat, no one listens and no one really cares.

Now before anyone comes back with all the numerous sociological theories on mankind and the working environment, I did say let’s look at it from a simple reality check. So let’s just look at our own safety profession.

Having spoken to many safety people over the last 30 years, I’m still amazed how many tell me their company practices and systems don’t work or their company is dysfunctional. Yet they are either frightened to raise the issue for reasons such as lack of confidence in their own assumptions, or fear of losing a job. Some people would rather choose to just carry-on with familiar old practices rather than face an unknown situation, or as many would say “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know”

If you’re working in the safety profession you often have to choose between working with established and familiar safety practices with limited results or, having to make major changes to how the company operates. So, how would you approach your senior management and tell them what they have been doing for many years is not working?

Remember when you were interviewed for a job, the company most probably said something along the lines of; we want safety to be our number one priority, or management will support you 100%. So what could possibly go wrong? Well let’s put these simple statements into perspective.

“Safety is a Priority” Well in reality safety is not the first priority. It is survival of the business which comes first. If you do not understand and accept this then you will fail.

“Management support” The term management support does not mean that you will be granted absolute power to make change. It means support will be given if what you propose is financial and operationally viable.

If we now think about these two definitions what we are talking about is business efficiency and productivity. It is a balance of good management practices and organisational control, of which safety is one part of the jigsaw puzzle. Yet quite often we see safety people isolated from the strategy and management functions of the organisation, like a mushroom in the dark.

So when you get back to work on Monday morning, think about what you and the company are doing, and is it time to stand up and raise you voice to make change happen. Speak to your senior management and let them know safety is a business function, not just accident prevention.

About the Author Wayne J. Harris:

Wayne is a highly regarded international specialist in developing corporate risk and HSE management systems with over 30 years experience within high-risk environments. He has advised major organisations both private and governmental, on key issues of strategy and organisational risk and safety management. Wayne’s experience in dealing within the international arena and multiple cultures from Europe, Asia-Pacific, to the Middle East has given him a comprehensive understanding of the global risk issues facing an organisation in today’s business economy. He has held various senior corporate roles, and has sat on the Board of Directors of several companies including a Chamber of Commerce. He is also the Chairman of ISQEM, and a Director of the World Safety Organization (WSO)

  1. Ray Wyld permalink

    Once you get thru the Maze of “‘Help”” from others to be safe and understand that the same skills and Culture are required to be Safe and Profitable. One without the other doesn’t work.
    Workplaces which improve Safety will see $ and Productivity show the same improvement.

  2. Peter J. Vandu permalink

    Mr. Wayne Sir,
    I am happy to anounce to you that you have one student who is not just following your article, but learning a lot from them. Please keep it up it pays to spread the Gospel of Safety to mankind
    Thank you Sir. I am your new student

    Peter James Vandu SIIRSM

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