Safety Culture Excellence®

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Success vs. Vulnerability

May 28th, 2014

The only problem with a successful safety effort is success.  Success can seriously damage the organizational and individual sense of vulnerability necessary for future success.  When no accidents happen for a long enough period of time, people can drop their guard.  Celebrations of success that don’t include admonishments for renewed effort can lead to workers who are too busy patting themselves on the back to be safe.  The age old, “it isn’t going to happen to me” mentality begins to grow and minds start to think their bodies are bulletproof.

Some of the best-performing organizations in safety are the ones where workers come to work each day with a full realization that accidents are possible and waiting.  No one lowers their guard because they know the dangers are still there.  There is a healthy respect for the possibility of a tragedy and everyone is standing guard to prevent it. 

Vulnerability need not reach the panic level, but also cannot be allowed to go completely away, even for moments.  Just like disease, accidents are best addressed through early detection and management of risk factors; not through reactive measures to control the damage.  Can your organization celebrate success without losing its healthy sense of vulnerability?

-Terry L. Mathis

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Terry L. Mathis is the founder and CEO of ProAct Safety, an international safety and performance excellence firm. He is known for his dynamic presentations in the fields of behavioral and cultural safety, leadership, and operational performance, and is a regular speaker at ASSE, NSC, and numerous company and industry conferences. EHS Today listed Terry as a Safety Guru in ‘The 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS in 2010, 2011 and 2012-2013. He has been a frequent contributor to industry magazines for over 15 years and is the coauthor of STEPS to Safety Culture Excellence, 2013, WILEY.


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