From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
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.
Rating: 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.
We all learn differently. Some people can read something, understand it and put it into practice without any difficulty. Others respond immediately to verbal instructions. Some need to go out and put the lessons into practice before they fully understand it.
Quality is sometimes confused with luxury, but Joseph Juran, an early evangelist for quality management in business, defined it as “fitness for purpose.” Luxury might be an engraved fountain pen, but quality might be a pencil whose lead that doesn’t break more often than the user expects and sells at a price the buyer believes reasonable.
“One of the things I feel privileged about,” says Dr Waddah Shihab Ghanem Al Hashemi, “is that I work for an organisation that is diversified - it takes oil out of the ground, refines it, shifts it in pipelines and road wagons, but also sells a lot of hotdogs.”
The report points out that safety does not depend simply on getting the design, materials and construction methods right, but on its management during the whole lifecycle of the building. The finger of blame has previously been pointed at construction and refurbishment failings. Criticism has focused on cladding systems on high-rise flats and whether the provision of sprinklers should be mandatory. However, we must remember that residents have a duty of care to their neighbours too.