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Someone commented on a social media share I did recently about some feedback they had gotten from someone else in their career: “You’re the safety person I’m least likely to punch”.

Now aside from you getting all politically correct on me, it’s kinda funny, but kinda squirmy at the same time because I reckon we’ve all spent time feeling like people want to punch us. With good reason. I reckon this started not because of who we are, but because of what we have done, and continue to do. And, as time quickly goes by, the two get strongly associated so safety jobs and safety people and safety stuff becomes so temptingly punchable.

There are lots of reasons why, but there is one in particular I wanted to highlight for you today, because I tested it. It’s called the BS test. The Bullsh*t Test. (Oops I should have told you that explicit word will feature a bit in this episode. And if you aren’t going to keep listening because of that, check this out where science proves why you should have friends who swear.

We’ve talked about the gap between work as imagined and work as done before on the podcast. David Borys on ep 6 and John Green in ep 35 to name two, but it comes up semi-regularly in others as well. What we imagine happens in contrast to what actually happens in reality. The difference between intent, and practice.

I reckon that our punchability as safety people increases as a positive function of how big the gap that we create between work as imagined and work as done. When the gap becomes extreme, people start to call bullshit on it – and people say things like ‘how does that make sense? Who wrote this? How is that even relevant? Why are you asking me this? This doesn’t fit my situation at all!’

Think about when you’ve created or been part of or seen BS safety stuff. Write a list. You’re going to need that list later.

So I mentioned I did the BS test myself recently. From time to time I work for companies who require me to do some form of induction. Same induction for everyone. Already the punchability meter starts to flicker upwards. You can probably smell the bullshit already.

My work was going to be office based, it was a high risk business but what I’d been asked to do was something strategic, lots of listening, talking and thinking. So in my online induction I was faced with multiple questions about my work environment, whether I had a site specific induction, some ergonomics things about my specific desk and chair, emergency stuff. I visit plenty of different places so wouldn’t be able to answer most of these questions, A) because I hadn’t started work yet, and B) because it would be different for all of them.

The option to mark these NA was there, not that it explained what NA meant, so I selected that option for all of the items. There was also a policy I was meant to read and agree to, which didn’t have a hyperlink. I clicked DISAGREE initially, and then a message appeared that I wouldn’t be able to access site or get paid until it was resolved… what did I do? I did what every other person who faces BS would do – I clicked agree. This is the BS test – what would happen once I clicked submit? (which by the way, from a user-experience perspective, submit creates such terrible imagery, I don’t know anyone who submits to anything and likes it).

Much to my surprise I got a call, asking me about my responses. I was astonished to be honest. Would I like a copy of the missing policy via email? Sure I would, thank you. Why did you answer Not Available to these questions? Well I didn’t know what’s what it meant, I assumed not-applicable. But anyway….I explained the logic behind my responses, which I thought were simply the only honest way to answer since I couldn’t see into the future nor answer for unknown and multiple sites in that future. They asked if I had a primary site, like a main one. I’m guessing because they know its BS too and just wanted to make the workflow in the system happy. No, I’m sorry I don’t. They said they’d speak to the safety person and get back to me. A few minutes later I get a call back “That’s no problem Andrew, it’s just important that you get an induction from all these sites covering X, Y and Z. Of course I will, not a problem, thank you for the clarification.

I’ll let you decide how much of that sounds like BS and how much is good safety. Hint, I think most of it is BS.

But it does make me wonder how many people start any sort of interface with safety, like an induction, or toolbox, or meeting, or risk assessment, ready for BS? How many become patently proficient at manoeuvring around our BS to get the job done? How often do you get feedback about your BS process or induction, or whatever, like I provided, and IGNORE it just to band-aid it with a workaround? What happened to trying to fix it? Too hard? It’s always been like that? Need more budget? Need approval? Bullshit. It’s all bullshit. I know because I have been a bullshit artist for a long time, and I have been complicit. I was full of bullshit. You can avoid this, with good, empathic user-centred design. You don’t have to make this complicated. You don’t have to accept BS, because when the place blows up or burns down, no one will care about your excuses, and the charred remains of the BS process will become fodder for Andrew Hopkins’ next book.

The most important question, to help get you started on taking action to grow yourself and improve your BS health and safety stuff, is this: do you BS test your own stuff? Better yet, get someone else to do it, and tell them not to hold back. That’s the only way you will be able to start to find and eliminate all your safety BS. At the very least, maybe, just maybe, you too will become the safety person that someone else is least likely to punch. And at the most? You will reduce the gap between work as imagined and work as done, you’ll eliminate wasteful time and energy in your business, and enable people to get on with the great work they go to work every day to do.

I’ve got a great guest coming on the podcast soon to talk more about BS safety stuff, they’re into it so much that they are doing a PhD on it to help us all improve. If you haven’t already you can get the show notes for this epsiode, my handwritten reflections and your own reflection template just below here, and I’ll keep you up to date with all our growth-fuelling content, events and random surprises.

Until next time, what’s the one thing you’ll do to take positive, effective or rewarding action, to grow yourself, and drastically improve health and safety along the way. Seeya!