Too much safety management (what’s wrong with safety #2)

Too much safety management and not enough improvement of work.  That’s becoming a problem.  “Management” of something is a mediocre objective and further the idea of safety management can make safety appear to be independent from the work.  Why does anyone need to “manage” safety?  We can’t manage safety unless we have safety.  And if we have safety, why manage the safety?  If not managed, is safety prone to getting out of control and growing too big?  Surely we would not mind if safety became too vigorous and abundant so that can not be right.   Perhaps sadly that is actually what is happening.  Has the management of safety become so heavy that it is restraining light-footed improvement of work rather than enabling improvement?  No organisation needs to manage safety.  What needs to be done is not the management of safety but the management and improvement of work – and that is probably what the term is technically meant to convey.  Unfortunately the management of safety seems to be taking on a life of its own – as a concept on its own divorced from the work – and becoming the end itself.  This is especially confusing for smaller businesses who say, “I haven’t got time for safety, I’m too busy looking after the work”.  That is actually ok, because it is the work that needs to be managed.  However they are lead to believe that they have to do something else; being to “manage safety” and implement a “safety management system”.  The theory is that a functioning “system” will yield better safety.  It’s not a bad theory as long as the link between system and actual results is strong which is a debatable topic.  Innovations in the design and conduct of work will lead to better safety.  Perhaps “safety improver” or “safety innovator” would be better language but the “management” of safety perhaps has become problematic in that it seems to exist on its own and the connection to the improvement of work is questionable.

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About John Culvenor

Hi, Thank you for taking a look at this blog. I work in engineering, ergonomics, creativity, design, training, etc. Often this is about helping solve legal puzzles through accident analysis. Sometimes it is about thinking up better designs for equipment, workplaces, and systems. This blog is about good design and bad design, accident analysis and how it can be done better, and how we can make a better, safer world by design!
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