Remove the Trees

March 27 2023
By: Shawn M. Galloway

In the mid-2000s, I spent much of my time working across France supporting client organizations. I watched a curious thing unfold. In one village where I repeatedly stayed, they had a problem with intoxicated drivers crashing into the trees on their way home.

If you have spent much time in Europe, dining at a restaurant is more of an evening experience than something like a witness in the United States, where they work to quickly turn the tables over. In Europe, you will likely meet the owner and join others in conversation, an experience. Dinners are, as a result, typically longer. People enjoyed the food and paired alcoholic drinks, leading to intoxicated drivers heading home. In the local news one day, a governmental representative claimed, "To protect these people (intoxicated drivers), we must remove the trees."

Remove the Trees

As I would share this story, the immediate responses I received found this intervention ridiculous and felt effort should instead focus on holding the drivers and restaurants accountable for their behavior. Yes, of course, there must be accountability for this. But only looking at measures to prevent unwanted or undesirable outcomes forgets that humans make mistakes, even illegal ones. This is the idea behind fail-safe systems and environments, and creating system capacity to recover, not just prevent.

While we should never stop trying to prevent all deviation from expectations, you can't prevent all mistakes from occurring. This is human. We are fallible. We all make them every day. A focus on behavior is necessary, as is the environment in which the behavior is occurring or sometimes because of. Perhaps the French politician knew what he was doing and was ahead of some of the safety thinking that remains today.

"I always believe the rule by king or official leader is outdated. Now we must catch up with the modern world." — Dalai Lama

"If our system continues without modification involving environmental and social concern, we will face an economic and social breakdown of our outdated monetary and political system." — Jacque Fresco

"Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it." — Salvador Dali

Shawn M. Galloway

Shawn M. Galloway is CEO of the global consultancy ProAct Safety. He is a trusted advisor, professional keynote speaker, and author of several bestselling books on safety strategy, culture, leadership, and behavior-based safety. He is a monthly columnist for several magazines and one of the most prolific contributors in the industry, having also authored over 700 podcasts, 200 articles, and 100 videos. Shawn has received awards and recognition for his significant contributions from the American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council's Top 40 Rising Stars and Top Ten Speakers, EHS Today Magazine's 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS, ISHN Magazine's POWER 101 - Leaders of the EHS World and their newest list: 50 Leaders for Today and Tomorrow, Pro-Sapien's list of The Top 11 Health and Safety Influencers and is an Avetta Distinguished Fellow.

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