However, over that same period the world of safety has changed significantly and arguably it is now the UK and Australia that are at the forefront of innovations in safety leadership. Many commentators, myself included, have suggested that safety in the US has gone round in circles for decades and this book I feel illustrates that perception well.
On the one hand, there’s little to disagree with Thomas Krause, BST’s founder, and co-writer Kristen Bell’s narrative. 7 Insights into Safety Leadership is concise and well-written. Particularly for small-to-medium-sized enterprises, it’s a good place to start if those organisations are not aware of the key safety leadership messages.
These include that safety leadership and business leadership are generally synonymous and that leadership and culture are key. But are these really ‘insights’ in 2020? Behavioural safety leaders Sidney Dekker, James Reason, Eric Hollnagel and Dominic Cooper have all been saying the same things with great clarity – and considerable global influence – for many years and none are referenced in this book.
Chapters on applying the principles of Heinrich’s triangle; the importance of focusing specifically on the causes of fatalities; the role behavioural safety still has to play; and how cognitive biases negatively influence safety thinking are well worth a read.
However, although the authors claim to have taken a holistic and integrated approach, there is no mention of fatigue, mental health or wellbeing. This is really out of touch with contemporary thinking. I recently attended a SHE conference in the Middle East where these issues were the main focus of discussions. Excellent safety leadership in 2020 really needs to be confronting these issues.
The science of ‘behavioural economics’ or nudge theory is about achieving significant changes in behaviour for little input. Associated with this is the concept of fast and slow thinking and its practical use in influencing skills and leadership. Again, they barely get a mention.
In many ways 7 Insights into Safety Leadership is a useful resource. However, a significant drawback is its failure to reference other important and influential thinkers as well as its failure to mention that mental health and wellbeing are the great challenges currently confronting organisations.