A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: the relentless pursuit
Thursday 12th December 2019
From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
If you were looking for a way to illustrate this, A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession would provide an excellent example.
There is nothing particularly noteworthy about the cover. There is no reason to expect anything other than guidance on how to conduct oneself as a professional safety practitioner. Can I therefore be excused for expecting content on how to carry out an audit, a risk assessment or an inspection, or perhaps a focus on the softer skills -- communication, leadership or negotiation?
The author, Jason A Maldonado, spent more than 15 years in health and safety. Initially serving in the United States Air Force as an explosive safety technician, his career also included roles in civil construction, chemical weapons, electrical distribution and food manufacturing.
The summary notes his book "will help reshape the way we talk about safety, prompt action, and engage workers from all levels of an organisation."
But it was not what I was expecting. It is based neither on theory nor practice but is a personal account of the author's time in the profession. Maldonado has written short stories and anecdotes about the people he has met and the challenges he has faced when tasked with 'implementing health and safety'. We are told on the back cover: "Jason proves safety can be funny without endangering lives."
The chapters consist of 'moment in time' events, written in the style of a memoir. I found that, with this informal structure, there is not much attention given to the background of the characters that Maldonado encounters and, in that respect, I struggled to make a connection.
The author is American, so it is natural that references are made to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is an agency of the United States Department of Labor and the American equivalent of the UK's Health and Safety Executive. But these do not distract from the message.
I suspect the events Maldonado describes relate to the mid to late 1990s, and some of the responses to his methods do provide humour. Moreover, the book shows how far safety management and culture have matured over the past 20 years.
But despite the author's guile at developing an innovative way to present content for the health and safety profession, I doubt readers will learn anything new.
Andrew Hopkins, whose name is synonymous with process safety, has written extensively about the causes of major accidents in the oil, gas and mining sectors, as well as aviation and transport. His erudite analyses of Deepwater Horizon, Texas City and Longford, among others, underline his outstanding contributions to safety at work that resonate globally.
Readers of Caroline Webb’s How to Have a Good Day and John Briffa’s A Great Day at the Office will feel they are on familiar ground here. As with her fellow authors, Natasha Wallace takes a user-friendly approach to ‘flourishing’ (at work, specifically).
Safety Science Research is a collection of studies drawing on the work of more than 25 authors. These include contributions from professors, doctors and lecturers who specialise in fields such as sociology, organisational behaviour, psychology and risk management. The material is broad and covers safety at work as well as industry sectors that include transport and engineering.
This book isn’t perfect. From a safety excellence perspective, we know that culture is king and that line management drives it. Therefore, seeing culture described as an “intriguing topic” raises an eyebrow, as does a tone that seems to assume Human Resources own and drive wellbeing rather than help line management to do so.
The overlap between two distinct areas of regulatory law – health and safety and environmental – can be strewn with complications. It follows, therefore, that explaining how to overcome these, and communicating solutions to lawyer and non-lawyer alike, would be a testing challenge. But it is one that the authors of HSE and Environment Agency Prosecution have risen to.