July 25 2022
By: Shawn M. Galloway
Think safety. Be Safe. Think before you act. A minute to think matters. What do those mean? While well-intended antecedents, these terms are either viewed as meaningless or, at best, have a different meaning for different people. They create more confusion than clarity.
We want people to think through their actions before acting. Makes sense. We want them to think about the hazards and risks they will face. Makes sense. We want them to think through what controls or precautions are necessary to address the hazards and risks. Makes sense. Then, why not specifically ask these? Vague directions create misaligned behavioral expectations.
Specificity matters, both in directions as well as thinking before acting. What specifically do you want people to do - not get hurt? Or do you want them to think specifically about what it takes to make that a reality and overcome what they will encounter along the way? Specificity matters.
"There is no greater impediment to the advancement of knowledge than the ambiguity of words." - Thomas Reid
"I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific." - Lily Tomlin
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.