Safety is a relatively new function. When it was created in the mid 70s, it was typically an assignment tacked on to someone’s existing job. There were no instructions, or templates for doing a good job.

Most safety people were expected to make it up as they went and predictably many were successful while many more were not.

Lazy, stupid and disobedient

This “do whatever you think is right” climate created a host of really creative ways of blaming injured workersfor getting hurt. It also promulgated the idea that injuries were inevitable. Safety was like a sick joke, “what do all injured workers have in common? They need to be more careful.” It was also this climate where the seeds of the worker as lazy, stupid, and disobedient children were sown.

Truth be told, industry didn’t expect much from the folks in safety back then, but that was then and this is now. Now the safety function is expected to partner with operations and reduce operating risk and to devise and deploy interventions designed to directly mitigate the risks associated with doing one’s job.

In short, today’s most successful companies expect tangible results from the safety group and these safety groups deliver.

This brush doesn’t have tar enough for all

Most of the people who have taught me the greatest lessons and provided me with the deepest insights about safety have half a century or more in the field. While it’s true that we stand on the shoulders of giants, it’s equally true that just because you’retall doesn’t mean you’re a giant, you could be little more than an oversized goof-ball with hurt feelings and a big mouth.

So what creates a Crank Cox? Crank Cox is a fictitious amalgamation of numerous people that I have met. Any resemblance to any person living or deceased is purely coincidental.

Two things create a Crank: fear and stupidity (or the all too rare combination of the two). The Crank Coxes have adopted a pattern of dysfunctional behavior that has garnered them some measure of success— and continued success is predicated on nothing changing in the workplace. These people fear new ideas because real change will expose their inadequacies and may force them out to pasture. If they are incapable of change then the only option left to them is to yowl and attack those advocating change.

Some of these people are too belligerent to education to learn the emerging skills and ideas presented, and rather than try to learn or admit their lack of understanding, it’s easier and more comfortable to snarl in discussion groups than admit that maybe they lack the chops to continue in this field.