Challenging the Safety Quo pulls together the author’s perspective on a collection of ideas known as “safety differently”, which has been attributed to thinking coming out of Australia. It is clear many occupational safety and health professionals already contemplate safety in this way. All that Marriott and his fellow travellers have done is cleverly brand this approach and drive a bandwagon on which many others have jumped.
It is written in a conversational style and in places deliberately “dumbed down” so that it isn’t too theoretical. The chapters often feel more like blogs. They are nevertheless captivating due to that conversational style Marriott uses.
Over its 24 chapters the author makes the case for changing conventional wisdom and moving towards safety based on the premise that performance is stagnating; he identifies areas where he believes there are problems and proposes ways to make improvements. Traditionalists might find this book irritating but I don’t believe that’s the intention; Marriott is trying to be thought provoking by challenging the norms people have about the topics he covers.
In the opening section, Marriott examines four key challenges that he argues organisations face in the safety space: engaging colleagues; improving safety systems to drive engagement; improving understanding; and making safety an integral part of the culture.
I liked how Marriott provides short and succinct bulleted summaries at the end of each chapter to drive home the key messages.
The only glaring omission from this book in my view is a cautionary note to explain that safety differently will work effectively only if the organisation creates the environment to support this approach and allows its OSH managers to influence in its development.
It is important to stress that applying the principles set out in this book will not solve all safety issues. However, it will be money well spent if you want to be a leader - at whatever level you find yourself in the safety world - because it could help you change how everyone thinks about safety.