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Apocalypse, now? Don’t believe the hype!

andrew sharman

Apocalypse, now? Don’t believe the hype!
Why we need to push back the tired tide of negativity

To be honest, I’m tired. Really tired. Is this what The End of The World feels like?

Every day for the last couple of months my Inbox has been bombarded with the ‘latest updates’ from safety journals and online forums, on receipt of each I have felt a little more dejected.

It seems we face the apocalypse. Time has become timeless.

Our world is spinning too fast. Whilst on one hand this speed is attractive in the sense that it drives progress and affords us convenience (workplace projects, performance scorecards, 24-hour supermarkets, and self-service gas stations for example all work blindly in the face of time passing).

But this timelessness affects our work in safety too. Just this week a large global multinational client called for support to implement a culture change, stipulating that the change ‘had to be fully embedded before Christmas’. Organizational culture change, done and dusted in 3 months? There’s a point missed here, right?

Organizations are driven by time, that’s clear. There’s always a milestone, always a deadline. The common question linked to any enquiry we receive now is ‘How soon can you get here?’ – swiftly followed by ‘How quickly will it have an effect?’

Turbo-driven beyond belief, it seems many people have missed the point – that safety culture comes by evolution, not revolution. I guess they are not to be blamed – the proliferation of negativity in safety can only inspire panic and fear. Counting up a total of 97 articles coming into my Inbox this week my analysis shows that a full 96% of them lead with negativity. From massive fines, to prison sentences, from safety being ‘broken’ to the necessity for doing safety ‘differently’ there’s an abject urgency that’s clearly hard for many to resist.

These calls for revolution in safety are not only unfounded, they’re misguided too. For many nations around the world now enjoy unprecedented levels of safety – whether you measure accident rates, legislative compliance, employee engagement, organizational investment or indeed any other metric.

Darwin’s theory of evolution spoke of the importance of adapting to change. We don’t need to throw everything away and start over. The apocalypse is not upon us. I prefer revelation to revolution. We don’t need to revolutionize the way we do safety, rather we must reveal the good habits, practices, leadership and cultures that surround us – and emulate, adjust, apply and implement these. Learning surrounds us!

Confidence in safety, it seems, has been rocked. And the media hype continues to rattle the cage. But true confidence can never be instantaneous. It must be built, earned, over time. Instant confidence - like instant faith – never works.

Philosopher and learned professor Jean-Pierre Dupuy suggests that “Our power to act infinitely exceeds our power to feel and imagine.” I can’t help but agree.

Do we really need an apocalypse, now?

Don’t believe the Hype

When we stand back, we see that the urgency to act in safety is driven by the media-spun rhetoric. This fear is a deadly assassin: whilst it does not kill it prevents us from living.

We need to stand up and be counted in safety, push back the tired tide of dismay and celebrate the victories we achieve day after day around the globe. Yes, there will always be more to be done, but by constantly being open to the evolution of our art, our science, our practice we will get there. Here’s how:

Step 1: Don’t believe the hype, it’s not the apocalypse now.
Step 2: Stand up and share a good news story on safety in your organization today
Step 3: Hashtag #CreatingSafety @RMarshSharman on Twitter and LinkedIn and we’ll reward the best stories with a free book.

Andrew’s global best-selling book From Accidents to Zero: A Practical Guide to Improving Your Workplace Safety Culture is available to Intellex Community readers with an exclusive 25% discount. His new book Mind Your Own Business - co-authored with Dame Judith Hackitt is also out now. Use the code INTELLEX25 at www.fromaccidentstozero.com to order your copies of both books. But be quick!

November 24, 2017 @ 02:37 PM EST

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