Companies spend millions and millions of dollars trying to convince their employees that individual safety is the company’s NUMBER ONE PRIORITY. In my opinion, that is illogical, untrue and counter-intuitive to encouraging optimum vigilance in an employee. Certainly, management based safety programs are critical and greatly reduce on the job injuries; I’ve never said otherwise. But dangerous environments cannot be made “safe”, safer, sure – but never safe. There is no such state and believing otherwise is hazardous to your health.
I’m not so sure that relying exclusively on “empirical evidence” is the best road to common sense. This, from Where The Safety Rubber Meets the Shop Floor “There is little empirical evidence that validates the important role management plays in establishing a climate that sustains safe job behaviors. There is even less information about how management influences the safety atmosphere of the workplace.” Whatever value statistics offer, they should not be a substitute for common sense and human nature.
When a trapeze artist is performing without a net, do you suppose he or she is more or less focused on not falling? I’ve never walked a tightrope before, but I can assure you that walking up a suspension cable feels very different when you’re tied in versus when you’re not.
Management might argue (sensibly) that a net is a very good idea, and will greatly reduce the likelihood of a fatal fall. But I don’t think it’s pithy or libertarian to suggest that reducing the likelihood of a catastrophic injury also reduces the level of fear, which in turn reduces the level of an employee’s situational awareness. That’s just human nature – at least, in the humans I’ve met and worked with: paradoxically, the presence of a net, or a harness, or even a pair of gloves, can reduce injuries while encouraging risk. I do believe this results in an unintended consequence of many safety programs.