Nate Brimhall, safety officer for CCI Mechanical, sent me some of his thoughts on the safety industry. We are using some of his comments in a separate project, but thought some of you safety officers may be interested in his words. If you are a safety officer, comment with your thoughts or comments.
Words from Nate Brimhall, Safety Officer
I worry about the institutionalization of safety.
As a safety professional for the last 20 years, I have seen many changes and improvements in safety. Right now, I feel as though we are at a far end swing of a pendulum. Safety is becoming bigger, but not better. The institution of safety seems to have become bigger and more important with itself than the people it is intended to serve.
Safety has become a reaction, regulation, and compliance based destination, rather than a solution and improvement process. It seems to be more an effort to transfer risk, document responsibility and blame, and CYA, rather than an effort of helping and continual improvement. We seem to be in a “tough love” phase that is repressive, not creative. When creativity is replaced by fear, we at best severely slow growth, at worst dam it altogether. Safety, growth, and excellence are a journey, not a singular destination. (If you haven’t checked out the Journey to Safety Excellence. It’s worth a few minutes of your time.)
We are driven too often in a linier thought process of checklists, destinations, and “we’ll be safe, happy, successful, … when.” It applies throughout all facets of our lives. More and more, I believe fulfillment comes from being truly present in the journey. Being part of something bigger than ourselves, feeling connected, and part of a community. Being able to be vulnerable, without fear of shame. (Brene’ Brown’s Vulnerability TED Talk is excellent. )
One of the things I love about Little Giant Ladders is their corporate attitude. From the statement boldly printed on the conference room wall to every advertisement piece, they believe in the why of what safety is about. “Preventing Injuries, Saving Lives” is not just a catch phrase. It is the why behind the how and what they do.
In an environment where everyone is empowered and encouraged to say “no,” Little Giant asks how. That simple Growth Mindset* sets them apart from other manufactures and will help them drive the industry. The innovations at Little Giant come as a direct result of being willing to ask how. The innovations come from a cooperative effort to find solutions. Little Giant is engaging all levels of the construction industry. Manufacturing, Distribution, Owners, General Contractors, Subcontractors and individual end users are all brought to the planning and development table at Little Giant. The results are practical innovations and products that solve common and also very specific problems.
Just this morning, I sent out a 6’-10’ Select Step ladder with one of our service technicians, who had a specific tie-off requirement, in an office building, with nothing to tie off to. The platform and supporting structure of the ladder allowed us to provide a safe working solution to the broadly applied site regulation.
Safety for me has never been simply to follow the rules. The rules have too many contradictions, interpretations, and exceptions to be the sole focus. A Risk Assessment is not a check list; it’s a process to engage everyone’s brain in the task at hand. We can never let safety be someone else’s responsibility. Safety has always been about C.A.R.E.-ing. The “why” for me is connection with people, becoming better, not just bigger.
*The Growth Mindset is compared to a fixed mindset in a great book by Carol S. Dweck Ph.D. – Mindset The New Psychology of Success. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who has children, manages people in any way, or is looking to own more of their life.