Something is wrong — possibly our conventional safety management principles and science are not only losing their impact, but are now contributing to failure.

With cult-like compliance, rules have created workers who don’t see risks, don’t analyze risks, and don’t judge anymore. We are confident that we have found the main culprit: human workers – showing at-risk behaviors, complacency, and who are not keeping their minds on the job.

Organizations have started to believe that their measurements of incident rates are a true reflection of their safety performance, blind to the possibility that people hide their failures so as not to upset the grand “vision of zero.”

Our Domino or Swiss Cheese causation models and analysis technology are from the engineering sciences — completely unsuited to a complex socio-technology system that has no root causes, only multiple, randomly interacting factors and variables. The so-called “root cause” is the organization itself — its “can do” culture to conquer risks and adversity — which is also the “cause” of its success.

Organizations are like the Titanic: self-confident, protected, highly engineered, hierarchically managed, and thought to be invincible. A new safety approach is needed that reaches deep into the organization. It is a safety approach that strips away the layers of protection, and which sees a worker as extremely competent to deal with risks. 

It is a safety approach that trains people in risk, not in safety. It trains them in specific risk identification processes, not in vague risk awareness.

It reinvents basic work processes, making them inherently safe, integrating safety into the work – not bolting it on. The operator participates in work arrangements, and is permitted to experiment, to try new ideas and even to take small risks.

It is supported by passionate leaders… a kind of leadership you find in high-risk environments. Every action is a life and death decision. Teams are in the midst of danger all the time and their best protection is each other; trust in their leader; and leaders’ trust in them.

This new kind of safety is called deep safe. And it is a new kind leadership, called deep leadership.

Corrie Pitzer (B.Hons Psych; B.Hons Bus; MBA).