Richard Hawk delivered the news to safety managers at the National Safety Congress in San Diego with a deadpan expression: "Safety isn't boring. You're boring."
In his keynote address Oct. 6, Hawk, a former a safety engineer and management trainer in the nuclear industry and veteran safety author and speaker, urged attendees to "get out of the misconception that safety is about rules and regulations." He said safety offers a wide variety of topics to discuss and safety trainers should use entertaining and innovative methods to convey safety information.
Hawk told attendees that many companies with very low on-the-job injury rates devote too much of their safety resources to issues that have largely been solved, such as lockout/tagout. He cited data by the National Safety Council that for every two workplace injuries, there are five off-the-job injuries. He said he was not asking companies to cut back efforts on their workplace hazards but rather devote more attention to issues that are causing human suffering. He noted, for instance, that injuries are the number one health risk for children 14 and under, and he cited a program at Raytheon that encouraged parents to become involved with their kids in healthy activities.
Unsafe acts are not a result of logical decisions, but rather emotions, Hawk said, citing research explored in books such as Jonah Lehrer's How We Decide. He said safety programs need to go beyond "rules and regulations" and deal with underlying emotional and health issues- ranging from depression to obesity and dehydration - that can distract workers and cause them to make unsafe or unhealthy decisions.
His parting message to the NSC audience: "Great leaders make safety fun."