It’s often heard that only our lack of imagination limits our hazard identifications or risk assessments. What we cannot imagine we cannot assess and there lies a problem because we might miss something important. Indeed, missing a hazard may cause serious problems afterwards, but I do not subscribe to the view that it’s a lack of imagination that limits our hazard identifications (if it is, I pity my colleagues who suffer from this condition).
In most cases I think it’s rather a sense of potential embarrassment that keeps us from coming up with certain scenarios. We don’t dare to mention them because people might think we’re not taking our job seriously (e.g. when we come with a scenario of UFOs landing on top of the building) or that others don’t take the scenario as a serious possibility (e.g. a plane crashing in the building). And smiling while working on safety seems to be a criminal offense - according to some anyway.
Film makers typically don’t have these restrictions and I’ve found myself on various occasions discussing scenarios from movies in a safety context with likewise open-minded colleagues. Take the opening sequence from Skyfall with the excavator ripping open a train. I have literally participated in hundreds of risk assessments that dealt with trains and excavators, often even both at the same time, but this scenario never came up! (But, close enough, excavators coming within the profile of the rail tracks tends to be a point of concern in almost any occasion and justly so).
Also the new 007 movie, SPECTRE, has provided some good material for discussion. This time it wasn’t the action or the stunts (so far - have to see that snow chase some more often, however), but the organizational/managerial/political aspect; more specifically the role of C.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot (mild Spoiler Alert), but there have been major discussions around me if Andrew Scott’s character is really one of the bad guys or just a misguided (and somewhat incompetent MBA-type) bureaucrat who gets lured the wrong direction in his idealistic quest for certainty and making the world a safer place.
Pending repeated watching the movie and assembling evidence, consensus for now leans toward the second choice. My friend Alan Quilley commented that the C character reminded him a lot of some safety guys that are doing all the wrong things for the right reasons. Examples of that are all around us… Plenty of Safety Programs build on them. Traditions and Established Beliefs are important drivers as is a lack of Critical Thinking. Safety Slogans and Safety Absolutes like Zero Accidents and Safety First are clear proponents of the Wrong Things for the Right Reasons.
Having 007 around with his licence to kill, solutions appear to be easy. In a movie at least. Solutions of that kind are not really an option in our work as Safety Professionals, of course. But it would be a good start to ask ourselves whether we are really doing the Right Things. And then maybe reconsider because the Right Reasons alone may be not enough…
Since the end of the year is nearing we might consider this as a Professional New Year’s Resolution… And while you’re at it: if applicable (you decide, but be honest) do something about your imagination, embarrassment and sense of humour!
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