Safety "Professionals" Behaving Badly

by Dave Collins on November 15, 2015

in Safety Leadership,Safety Procedures

Safety “Professionals” Behaving Badly

ADDENDUM: This is an old post which I put up recently on LinkedIn Pulse. My Good Friend Max Geyer made a comment which I think sums this up better than I ever could. He says:

safety failI think that part of the difficulty, for the safety professional, is that they perceive that they are better educated and more knowledgeable about safety than those around them. This is perfectly understandable (from their point of view). Part of the issue is that the training and education that most safety professionals receive (I know it to be true in my previous lives) is about legislation, penalties, incident investigations, and systems; it is not about understanding how people make decisions about risk. Their training is not about how people think, in fact it is mostly not about people at all. And therein lies the real issue; safety is about people and how they think and make decisions. It is about understanding how people make sense of risk and then act on their understanding. Once we have a few clues along these lines we now also have a few clues as to how we can improve the well-being of our people, including helping them to be safe.

I’m currently getting sent all these photos and videos (i wont publish so as to protect the guilty)  of a couple of Safety Professionals from a mining contracting company who had to be rescued by a FEL from their overturned 4WD after trying to cross a flooded creek somewhere in the Australian Outback!

I have been paid a to write comprehensive SOP’s and SWMS for professional lawn mowers but I am the first to admit that I don’t do a Take 5 or even wear 8 kinds of PPE when I mow the lawn at home, yeah I’ve used the wheelie bin as a ladder, I’ve been pulled over for speeding at the gates of the company where  I was about to do an AS4801 audit…………….

imageI’ve seen a Workcover Inspector fined in the city for “J” walking. I think we have all heard the story of the Workcover Inspector pulled over by the cops for speeding who then proceeded to issue the Officer with a fine for not wearing a hi viz vest.

Do Safety Professionals leave themselves open to ridicule when they decree all these convoluted systems, procedures, behaviours designed to protect us from ourselves but then fail or neglect to espouse them personally or set the example? Or are they human and fallible after all – despite what they think?

We copped a lot of flack for this article a year ago:

I would love to hear some more examples of hypocrisy and Safety Professionals behaving badly!!!!

One of our readers just sent in this photo of the parking abilities (or lack of) of a Workplace Health and Safety Manager:image

  • This was hilarious and provided a nice break from this mornings work.

    This is like the parents telling their kids not to smoke because its no good for you while they are LIGHTING up their next one.

    People sense hypocrisy.

    It undermines safety as well as respect for the leadership of the company.

    Real leadership requires us to the walk the walk not just talk the talk.

    Lloyd Pro Group | Nationwide Insurance
    4919 Flat Shoals Parkway #109, Decatur, GA, 30034

  • It’s the old mentality of “Do as I say, not as I do.” Employers and managers need to lead by example. A safe workplace environment can only be achieved if management leads by example.

  • Jennifer M. Logan-Porter

    Trust me, I believe in Karma or what goes around comes around. Unfortunately, our supervisor (the passive one) did not set that kind of example, so I really don’t know who this guy’s role model was to learn how to act/lead that way. However, one of the best feelings I got from that experience was that on my last day men who worked outside in the elements told me that they were going to miss me since I was the only one who seemed to give a care. That, in of itself, made it all the worthwhile and I take it with me as a lucky charm while I am out looking for employment and networking 🙂

  • Jennifer M. Logan-Porter

    Does it count when a safety professional openly acts out aggressively and harasses a co-worker? If so, I have a story to share.

    • Riskex

      Absolutely! Great example – I’d luv to hear your story 🙂

      • Jennifer M. Logan-Porter

        Well, here’s my story (heaven forbid if any prospective employer would see this)… While I was interning with an international company, I had to share the working area with a man who was a notch above me. He didn’t seem to like it too much since 9 times out of 10 he would throw his hard hat down on the floor and yell “Get the hell out of my office!”. I tried ignoring him, turning the other cheek, throwing a retort his way and sadly enough even when our manager witnessed it firsthand, the manager just simply shrugged his shoulders and asked “What do you want me to do about it?”. It got to the point where I felt like crying because I was struggling to maintain my weekly committment to them. The icing on the cake was when this man (the yeller) took me to a company luncheon to applaud the safe working habits at a site and he took it upon himself to swat me on my butt. I was stunned and yet again when I took it to management, I received the same useless feedback. Thankfully those days are behind me and I haven’t experienced anything like it since. If there is anything positive to be said about it is that I grew stronger and more resilient as a result of these times =D !

        • Riskex

          Erkkkk – makes you wonder what type of organisation it is that lets someone like that climb to the top of the dung heap!!! He was probably made that way from having a similar boss? I have met many like that but they get theirs eventually and end up sad, lonely old men. People respect them out of fear but eventaully find a way to bring them down (and get away with it). Have to believe in Karma 🙂

  • Mark T

    My worse is pretty tame to most. Turning up on site without steel cap boots, polyester / cotton shirt, and no hi-viz is my worst so far. Then the next day when I turned up in my all cotton hi viz gear and steel cap boots, everyone gave me s@#t about my bright new shirt and extra clean boots. I deserved it.

    • Riskex

      I reckon we can all relate and empathise mate – I always wash my new hi viz a few times and hang in the sun for a few days! I remember years ago our new safety lady turning up at the quarry in high heels and short skirt – none of the boys complained but when she went in the control room one wag exclaimed: “lucky ya flat chested luv or ya’d be bouncin’ round like jelly” – ooops!

  • One job I had the field safety people used to refer to my boss as bootlaces because he was so far up his managers rear end that the only things hanging out were his boot laces!
    My boss played the political game, always anxious to manage his career progression, pity improvements in safety were less of a priority

    • Riskex

      We all know the type mate. People may follow and obey them out of fear rather than respect. But, as soon as they get a chance to bring them down and get away with it….they will, big time!

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