August 16, 2011
Safety at All Levels
In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink shares a compelling and intuitive point. “The opposite of autonomy is control. And since they sit at different poles of the behavioral compass, they point us toward different destinations. Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.”
For years the main focus of many safety efforts has been compliance. Companies strive to meet regulations, and workers and managers fear OSHA inspections and make decisions based on the potential citations that could arise from certain actions. Newsletters all over publish lists of the top OSHA fines issued each month.
We need to quit talking about regulatory compliance as our baseline.
If we preach compliance (through citations for non-compliance), then all eyes will remain focused on compliance. This is solid logic. As Pink points out, this is an ineffective motivation tool; he cites decades of research to back up this conclusion. It would be far better to capitalize on every person’s intrinsic desire to return home safely at the end of the workday.
Our ultimate goal is to have little or no need for discipline because our culture will have evolved to a point where issues, hazards, and risk are identified by every individual and corrected immediately with no need for outside negative reinforcement. In our journey to move beyond a “rules and regulation based” culture, we need to first get really good at the rules, policies, and enforcement.
The people side of safety management requires a substantial shift in perception and alignment. We need to move away from regulatory compliance toward risk avoidance. This starts a shift from a cycle of mistrust in the workforce to a cooperative and collaborative relationship.