I had a bad dream this week. Somewhere in the middle of Dante’s Ninth Circle, right at the centre of Hell, in a dungeon frozen into the ice, are the figures of two earnest looking gentlemen locked in eternal combat. Theirs is a circling, non-contact kind of dance where each one tries in vain to constantly ‘out-safety’ the other. Their language is complex and illusionary, heir movements cagy and slow. Socratic Irony fills the air, ‘How come the one with all the answers is asking all the questions?’ They cannot be pinned down or held to account, they are slippery and elusive. Their facial expressions are belittling and full of mock derision. They are the Shades of the last two safety consultants on earth battling for the crown. They will charge you a fortune, promise the earth and ultimately leave you confused. They crave adoration. To be put on a pedestal and worshipped for their magical powers and ability to interpret the mystical language of Safety.
Or at least I think it was a dream. Maybe it was real. This COVID 19 malarkey has brought out the best and worst in all of us. The worst in Safety Consultants looks like the vision in the first paragraph where we embark on a race to the bottom to be the most obscure and illusionary that we can be. We take a subject and in some imagined rivalry to appear be the safest creature alive we wrap it in complex, exclusionary, unfathomable language which nobody understands and nobody will ever read beyond the first paragraph.
I must have seen fifty separate risk assessments this week for companies returning to work during the pandemic. They all seem much of a muchness, as far as they basically carry similar content. The identified risks and control measures tend to be the same. They all pretty much arrive at the same conclusions as far as how to work as safely as possible. However, that’s where it ends. Some are succinct, some quite perfunctory, some a bit lacking in detail, maybe. Others, however, the ones which make me shake my head in disbelief are vast tomes, written in some ancient lost language with the care and dedication of a scribe. Unfortunately, they will never be read, communicated nor understood. They have been written to stroke the authors vanity. Look at what I have written. Look how clever I am. That’s why I cost so much money.
The message this week is please keep safety simple. The more simple it is the more effective its likely to be. When you write a risk assessment think about who it is for. Write it for them. Write it so it can be easily read and easily understood. Don’t over complicate the content or the language. If you do the whole purpose and effectiveness of it will be lost. The easier it is to understand the more likely it is to be communicated and complied with.
As Safety Consultants we have this knack of appearing on the scene as the knight in shining armour only tell the suffering villagers, ‘of course, you understand that it won’t be me fighting the dragon, you will still have to fight it yourself, its just that now I will be behind you at a safe distance, questioning your methods and your tactics’