What are the different types of Safety Work?


There was a time I was using this distinction between in-surance – making things safer. Assurance – telling people its safer. And that is difficult and confusing mainly because insurance is a made-up word. The way we like to talk about it now is.

There’s different types of safety-work.

There’s demonstrated safety.

Which is stuff that you do to show other people that you’re safe. And that’s necessary for business. Business can only survive if your clients and your customers and your regulators think that you’re safe. And there is a lot of work that goes into not being safe but into demonstrating safety.

Then there’s social safety which is the stuff we do to tell ourselves we’re safe. No one wants to be the bad guy. So organisations need to go through rituals to convince themselves that they are good people. They have safety moments. No one believes that you walk out of a safety moment, safer. It’s a way of telling each other and telling ourselves that we care about safety. And that’s important too.

Then there’ administrative safety which is rules and procedures and that’s necessary as well. Organisations can’t deal with abstracts. They have to deal with concrete metrics, concrete goals, concrete responsibilities.

All those things in an ideal organisation would hopefully translate into changing the work itself and changing the work environment make it safer. But they can also exist independently. They can do their own thing, they can talk about safety without being safer. We can show safety to others without being safer. We can follow rules and procedures without being safer. When they link up to operational work and when there is a close tie to understanding and following operational work, then it works well. When there’s no close link, the safety goes off and spins its wheels, it does its own thing without improving safety.

Drew Rae | Proudly brought to you by Southpac International.

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