Reviews
Scott Gesinger, Routledge, £25 paperback, £95 hardback (eBook also available)

The Fearless World of Professional Safety in the 21st Century

Every now and again a new publication will contain novel thoughts, ideas and approaches that could help us to do our job better, more easily or both. Just occasionally, a book comes along that is as refreshing as a cold beer at the end of a hot day’s hard graft. This latest offering from Routledge is one of those.

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As the preface says, “we have been very successful in cluttering and clogging workplaces with safety stuff that does little but clutter and clog” so it’s now time to question some of our most fundamental tenets and models.

In this series of just under 30 essays, Scott Gesinger explores the idea of “modernising the art and science of safety”, viewing it through the lens of his own experience as an army engineer and safety manager for a range of US firms.

The US tag is important because the reader is not able to forget for one moment that the frame of reference here is the United States: both the language (“holy buckets!”) and the constant references to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and US politics ensure that. I’m normally quick to mark US-focused books as being indirectly relevant to the UK reader; but most of what Gesinger says is relevant to any jurisdiction, whatever its safety regime.

Here you will find answers to some fascinating questions. Why are safety managers like chief Brody in Jaws? Can a speeding armoured personnel carrier stop “on a dime”? (Yes, if it hits a big enough tree.) How can you use smartphones to liven up training? What can you learn about behavioural safety from trying to train a cat? Do safety advisers ever have accidents themselves? (Oh yes.) How should safety training address the needs of different generations – motivating millennials as opposed to baby boomers?

The chatty and individual style won’t delight everyone, and much of what’s advocated here is based on personal experience rather than peer-reviewed academic research. It is also important to note that some of the tips (aimed at beginners) are basic indeed.

But if I had to pick the common theme that runs through these essays it would be that we safety and health professionals stand or fall on our ability to build relevance and rapport with our “customers” – whether that’s the senior leadership team, safety committee members or the guys on the shop floor.

On this, there is more wisdom packed into these 150 pages than I have seen in any other safety publication. It offers a personal view that’s both full of warm humour and passionate about the safety adviser’s contribution to business success.

Routledge (www.routledge.com)

 

Paul Smith’s career spans enforcement, consultancy and the power industry. A former Health and Safety Executive inspector, he’s now a specialist writer on safety and health topics.

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