Firehose Safety

July 16 2017
By: Terry L. Mathis

Have you heard the analogy that getting too much information at once is like trying to drink from a firehose? A lot of safety programs, especially new-employee orientations, have that problem. It seems like the training is written by the legal department rather than the safety department and the goal is to control exposure rather than prevent accidents. Workers often come out of such training or orientations more confused than when they went in. Seldom does overload create focus.

Firehose Safety

But this problem is not isolated to new-employee issues. Many safety departments and senior safety executives have the "more is better" mentality. When results are not as desired, do more. Even experienced workers can be overloaded. A senior executive recently told me, "You can't be too safe!" Maybe not, but you can do so much in the name of safety that it actually makes you less safe.

World-class performers in safety make their programs easy to remember and logical to use. Their slogans (if they use them) match their programs and create a call to action. Their training directly applies to the job and is presented in sequential order. Training is measured by knowledge retention and skill level, not by how many warm bodies are in a classroom or in front of a computer. Safety must be presented in amounts that can be digested and firehoses are not a good mechanism for such delivery.

Terry L. Mathis

Terry Mathis, Founder and retired CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.

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