The aim of safety work is not to judge people for not doing things safely, but to try to understand why it made sense for people to do what they did against the background of their engineered and psychological work environment. If it made sense to them, it will for others too. Merely judging them for doing something undesirable is going to pass over that much broader lesson, over the thing that your organization needs to do to learn and improve – Sidney Dekker.

Distinguishing between policing and safety is as given:

  • An emphasis on blame wherever accidents occur, as opposed to identifying direct and indirect causes.
  • Little or no information, instruction and training for staff, with the firmly held view that ‘health and safety’s all a matter of common sense!’
  • Inadequate communication and consultation, where people who raise health and safety issues with management are perceived as ‘troublemakers’.
  • The absence of formal procedures for ensuring safe working, such as permit-to-work systems and the training and appointment of competent persons and where the manager who holds the health and safety advisory function is untrained, unclear as to his role and function as the ‘health and safety person’ and who merely reacts to situations sooner than taking measures to prevent these situations arising.
  • Legal reason for ensuring health and safety is of more importance than the moral (ethical) reason.

Competence is the ability to recognize the risks in operational activities and then apply the right measures to control and manage those risks – Judith Hackitt.

The competency level of an health and safety practitioner determines what he or she practices – Safety or Policing.


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