Safety Performance is a Symptom

February 06 2023
By: Shawn M. Galloway

When you have a headache, typically you will take some medication. If doing so relieves the pain, it isn't considered further. While the absence of headaches does not indicate health, when they present themselves continuously or do not subside with interventions, could this be a symptom of something larger, more concerning within the human organism? Headaches are symptoms. So is safety performance.

Safety Performance is a Symptom

When undesired performance is experienced, is there an effort to treat the symptom with medicine (e.g., new policies, procedures, programs, reminders, and training), or is there a search to determine what within the organization might be contributing to it? Do the safety systems have the capacity to deal with work as it is actually performed? Does the business strategy align with the safety strategy? Do you have cultural capacity to norm individuals to desired beliefs, behaviors, and experiences? Do you have leadership capacity to onboard new employees, keep experienced employees engaged, consistently tap into discretionary effort and align the culture and systems? Are you working to treat the symptoms, or what is generating them?

"True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information." — Winston Churchill

"The most important practical lesson that can be given to nurses is to teach them what to observe - how to observe - what symptoms indicate improvement - what the reverse - which are of importance - which are of none - which are the evidence of neglect - and of what kind of neglect." — Florence Nightingale

"Symptoms, those you believe you recognize, seem to you irrational because you take them in an isolated manner, and you want to interpret them directly." — Jacques Lacan

"The physician should not treat the disease but the patient who is suffering from it" — Moses Maimonides

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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