Safety’s High Horse

Safety fail pictures are popular.

There are now websites and social media groups dedicated to these photographs and millions of likes/shares of workers standing on buckets atop ladders or being lowered by their legs to fix air conditioners 30-plus stories high.

This same quality draws our attention to outrageous newspaper and news channel headlines. This celebrity failed. This one is now divorced. This politician accepted a bribe. This athlete took drugs.

Somehow the judgement errors in others makes us feel better. Somehow their missteps are so different than ours.

Many safety professionals even rationalize the pictures as a way to learn. To show their colleagues the dangers of certain types of work.

Don’t believe it.

Alain de Botton, author and philosopher, writes about this modern-day disconnect. “Confident that cast-iron walls separate our nature and situation from theirs, comfortable in the well-broken saddle of our high horse, we have exchanged our capacity to be tolerant for detachment and derision.”

The myopia that rationalizes safety fail pictures separates “us” from “them”. It diminishes empathy and artificially elevates egos.

And some safety pros wonder why the EHS profession is often unappreciated and undervalued?

Where is your saddle?

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