I recently rejected an offer from a prolific ISHN magazine contributing author who wanted to write a piece about NFL football player Ray Rice and the penalties he has been served by the NFL for domestic violence.
The author argued that beyond the NFL, we as a society are too fast to punish, and too slow to rehabilitate.
You can see how this applies to safety violation discipline. It’s open to debate how many employers are “too fast to punish, and too slow to rehabilitate” employees who violate safety rules.
But where is the evidence, the statistics that would answer this question? I don’t know of any. Without data, it’s a matter of opinion. Is punishment a problem in workplace safety? Everyone is entitled to their opinion. To be sure, I have heard many opinions over the years about how to, and how not to, implement safety discipline.
I’m all for giving ISHN readers food for thought about safety discipline -- an opportunity to compare their policies with those of others, and to reflect on the effectiveness of their discipline policies.
I also encourage ISHN authors to “stir the pot” and be provocative, be bold, get readers thinking.
But to frame this “opportunity” and “stir the pot” using the current events of the NFL domestic violence media onslaught brings emotions, personal experiences, and even cultural issues (strict child discipline is a Texas thing, a southern thing, etc.) into play that take the ISHN reader far afield from a discussion about safety discipline. It is exploitative. To use the language of football, it’s out of bounds.
We (magazine editors) often use current events to make a point about safety. Usually the event is related in some way to safety, such as the BP oil spill, the space shuttle catastrophes, Hurricane Katrina, the Japanese nuke facility meltdown, the GM recalls, etc.
I draw the line when the current event is something that can be personalized, such as domestic violence or child abuse. I don’t want articles that take a stance about an issue that people across the country have been traumatized by and scarred. I don’t want articles that irritate personal wounds for the sake of making an argument. In the absence of empirical evidence to support a point of view, who is to say who’s right and wrong?
I also draw the line when the issue is rife with heated, emotional reactions and opinions that will simply go ‘round and ‘round, with no closure, no resolution. A snake eating its tail.
And when an article brings into play heated emotional current events, readers react more to the current events being referenced than the points being made about workplace safety. Heated current events overshadow any safety angle and “take it out of play,” again to use football-speak.
Here’s what I would do: Assign an article to a crisis communications expert to discuss how the NFL as a business has botched the handling of a media-fueled crisis, lost credibility, and blackened its reputation. This article could produce practical advice for readers when faced with a reputation-damaging crisis.
But this is just my opinion, a judgment call. What’s yours? Would you hold a safety meeting or toolbox talk about your safety discipline policy using the NFL and its players with domestic violence histories as the starting point for discussion?