Safety stories

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Safety stories

I picked up on this post by Boudewijn Bertsch on the Cognitive Edge guest blog. It is an excellent narrative acount of how stories can be used to address safety issues in organisations.

In many organisations, safety has become an administrative issue – when an incident occurs, a standard process is followed, and once all the boxes have been checked, it is filed away. Often, no attempt is made to make sense of what happened, or learn from the incident. While this continues to be the case, no amount of safety awareness campaigns (with posters pasted on walls all over the organisation and powerpoint presentations by safety officers) will make any difference or reduce the number of incidents that occur.

As discussed by Boudewijn, I believe it is imperative that safety is ‘humanised’, i.e that an incident is linked to a real person, not just an administrative record. Stories are probably the only way to achieve this, because of their high emotive value. In South Africa, we have all become used to an inherently unsafe way of life. Many people don’t have the luxury of travelling to work in a ‘safe’ mode of transport, hence it becomes even more of a challenge to create a ‘culture of safety’ at work, when it doesn’t exist outside of the work context.

Companies should consider collecting narrative accounts of incidents and actively engage with these accounts in order to make sense of the complex patterns of unsafe behavior at work. With lives being lost almost weekly in mines and industrial sites, this should be done sooner rather than later …


By |February 18th, 2008|Categories: Narrative|Tags: , |0 Comments

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