Busting the "Safety is Boring" Myth

During the closing session of the US-American National Safety Council (NSC)
Congress and Expo on Oct. 6, Richard Hawk discussed the future of safety and
encouraged EHS professionals to lighten up their safety training - and improve
worker productivity, safety and well-being in the process.

"Your safety program should be fun," Hawk told NSC attendees. "Your employees
should think your safety program is something that makes them feel good."

Hawk, who spent years working in radiation safety and as a supervisor and
trainer, made it his mission to help people love their training. Yes, even
safety training. Hawk told NSC attendees that he wanted to break through some
of the common misconceptions - starting with the "boring" issue.

Misconception #1: Safety is boring. It's no secret that safety has a bad
reputation for being less than thrilling. "Here's the problem," Hawk said.
"Safety isn't boring. You're boring. It's up to you whether to make it fun or

Safety, Hawk explained, actually is exciting. It is more varied than many other
topics and involves aspects such as human behavior, equipment, motivation and
so on. "The new reality is safety is sexy," Hawk said. "We can make it that
way. We can make it really hip and cool. You can do this with any subject."

Furthermore, Hawk said, EHS professionals need to avoid the misconception that
safety is all about rules and regulations. "Yes, you need to know those
things," he said. "But certainly, once you have a well-educated work force, you
can move on."

Misconception #2: Rates rule! Hawk pointed out that with OSHA recordable rates
dropping lower year after year, the time has come to stop focusing so strongly
on recordable rates. If the rates are low, then focus on other, more meaningful

"I see this happening more and more in the future," he said. "Companies are
realizing it's a waste of time trying to look for one accident that might
happen and spending a lot of resources when we have employees - 40,000 a year -
dying on the highway. We're starting to get that message. Pull some of your
resources from the places you have done well to low-hanging fruit that will be
worth the time and effort."

Hawk was quick to point out that he wasn't advocating spending less time or
effort on safety. Instead, he said, a larger share of that time and energy
should be spent on the things that really get people harmed. The new reality in
this case, he explained, is that top-notch safety and health programs focus on
the entire person, not on numbers.

Misconception #3: We base our decisions on logic. Not true, Hawk said. In
reality, we base our decisions on emotions. EHS professions should learn to
help employees overcome the emotions that lead to risky decisions, such as
texting while driving, getting angry and cutting off other drivers and so on.
Helping workers feel part of a team is an excellent step in the right direction.

"The new reality is that emotions rule," he said. "To have your safety program
be about rules and regulations just doesn't cut it anymore."

Aggression, frustration, anger, rage, irritation and hostility are all emotions
that can lead to unsafe actions. Furthermore, depression is a pervasive problem
that can have a significant impact on a work force, Hawk said. Workers will
perform better and stay healthier if they get help for their depression. In
addition, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, exercising and eating right
can have an enormous benefit on worker well-being and productivity.

"The future of safety is doing all these things," Hawk said. "Once you start
getting over misconceptions, wonderful things start happening."

More information: - Source: National Safety Council