OHS Canada Magazine

The hardest things are also the easiest: A revelation for safety professionals

October 10, 2023
By Louise Trotter
Health & Safety

Photo: Adobe Stock

Recently, I had an enlightening conversation with a friend while reflecting on a photography podcast. The discussion revolved around the importance of promoting one’s work and finding a dedicated audience and niche, essentially becoming your own cheerleader.

My friend made a practical observation, stating pragmatically, “of course, the hardest things to do aren’t complicated.”

I looked at her quizzically, she continued: “If you need to gain or lose weight, you must adjust your diet; want to get into shape; and then start exercising.”

Yes, of course.

We know when it comes to achieving certain goals, like weight management or physical fitness, the solutions may seem straightforward but demand unwavering commitment. We all know the allure of quick fixes, which is why the diet and fitness industry thrives on promising instant results. However, the truth is that sustainable progress requires consistent effort and dedication.


Constant practice

This made me consider my profession and maintaining positive changes and progress in occupational health and safety which follows a similar principle. Improving safety outcomes requires the constant practice of safety protocols; it’s a continuous journey without a final destination. Furthermore, if the aim is to exceed minimum compliance and achieve even better safety standards, the stakes must continuously be raised.

Some might be tempted to believe that safety achievements from the past can sustain us today, but unlike skipping a workout or indulging in a donut, neglecting safety can have severe consequences, risking harm to individuals or even violating our legal responsibilities to protect workers. We have long since recognized that the journey to improved safety standards is a constant endeavor.

As safety professionals, our commitment to excellence drives us to regularly improve, amend, and update policies, procedures, guidelines, best practices, and training to ensure both legislative compliance and effective risk mitigation, with the ultimate goal of enhancing safety metrics.

Just like the coach at the gym, we play a vital role in motivating and guiding organizations to overcome challenges and achieve success. Our focus is on pushing organizations to embrace safe practices and excel in their safety efforts.

Coach and cheerleader

However, in today’s “attention-based” economy, keeping safety at the forefront of organizations’ priorities poses increasing challenges, particularly for management and employees. This is where we are both the “coach” and the “cheerleader” — we must find innovative ways to sustain motivation and inspiration. Taking cues from the diet and fitness industry, we must prioritize simplicity and accessibility in our safety programs to ensure continued progress and improved results.

Consider, for example, how we can make safety changes more appealing and sustainable, just as one might opt for a bag of frozen fruit to simplify smoothie preparation or choose a convenient at-home workout video instead of going to the gym.

Similarly, by incorporating user-friendly templates and visually informative graphs into our processes with simpler data reporting, we can facilitate ease of use without diluting safety standards or creating “safety clutter.”

Much like pulling up a YouTube video or using the Peloton movement for personalized and less intimidating exercise, our goal is to offer safety practices that are accessible and convenient, making it easier for team members to engage and participate actively in creating a safer work environment. By embracing these user-friendly approaches, we empower employees and management to embrace safety efforts with confidence and enthusiasm, without the perception of added work which might have held them back in the past.

It’s time we really look at those procedures that we expect team members to follow or reports that we expect management to complete. Are we sure we are asking for the right content? Will the information propel us forward as opposed to simply information for information’s sake? In my own safety practice, before contemplating a trial or a pilot, which is always an approach I undertake, I try it myself.

Whether that’s using a templated agenda to host a JOH&SC meeting, completing a supervisor monthly inspection form, or uploading some safety metrics. Does it all fill me with dread, delaying my action till the very last day of the month, or is it in fact, easy to complete and more importantly, does it feel valuable, and can I see it making a difference?

Ironically, this is no different than my attendance at my YinYoga class or making my overnight oats for breakfast – will it continue? Is it impactful? Is it enjoyable, and will it really matter?

Embracing simplicity

Just as we seek convenience and value in our personal routines, we should apply the same philosophy to our safety practices. Embracing simplicity and relevance in our safety procedures and reports is key to ensuring widespread engagement and active participation across the organization. By streamlining these processes and focusing on the information that genuinely drives progress, we can make safety practices more palatable and ultimately more effective.

Like maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we must remain steadfast and dedicated in our safety practices, we cannot afford to take breaks or revert to old habits or simply give up.

Sadly, there’s no magic pill to manage weight, get fit, or ensure safety. Thus, we must persevere as coaches and cheerleaders, continually inspiring and assisting others to conquer the safety hill, knowing that the safety hill has no peak. It’s hard work, but it’s also not a complicated formula or algorithm; in fact, it’s quite easy. In order to have safe workplaces, we must work safe.

Louise Trotter, B.Sc., MPPAL, CRSP, is the director of health, wellness and safety at Shannex Incorporated in Halifax. 


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