There are times when it is right to stand o principles and not give in. There are times when compromise is the prudent way, and it is useful to stay true to your values without compromising away those principles that you hold so firmly.
But there is acquiescence. And there is the U.S. Congress, but now I repeat myself.
There are principles that differ, and there are are perceptions that differ. Sometimes they go hand in hand, other times they are not tethered to each other in any real way, nor are either of them tethered to anything fundamental or foundational.
Vladimir Ivensky wrote a recent article in Professional Safety magazine about the differences in perception in regards to workplace hazards and risks,and often this is where compromise seems to come int play more while there is an argument whether that is the right thing to do.
Based on previous posts in this series, Ivensky discusses the very real concept of several different people having different levels of risk perceived for the same hazard, and the importance of getting everyone on the same page so a safety protocol can be utilized effectively. Much of this has to do with unifying the idea of risk perception with risk tolerance, as much of what is put together for safety reasons is a risk-and-reward scenario where the workplace tolerates a certain level of risk before placing safety protocols in place and requiring workers to execute those protocols.
However, as Ivensky notes, there are workers who may see the risk tolerance as too high and the safety measures inadequate to them, while others will see the risk as minimal and will complain that there is “too much” safety being espoused in the workplace – for the very same hazard. The point here is to find the middle ground between these two perspectives and to develop safety that can make both sides willing and ready to work.
But as you might guess, it it was so easy to do, Ivensky would not have written this article.
So the question is, is there a compromise?
That depends on who you ask and by what means you want to take care of these differences.
The goal, according to Ivensky, of any task in a workplace is to lower a worker’s risk tolerance in situations where a worker’s risk perception is lower than that of expert safety officials when it comes to a specific hazard.
One part of this challenge is to educate workers about all the risks and hazards of a particular work environment (such as in a confined space), and being able to explain why the safety protocols are in place. The main aspect that would help lower a worker’s risk tolerance is to teach that worker not just the what to do to be safe, but the why it is done.
And no, “because we say so” is not the answer.
This is where we all need to cogently explain the risks involved with a hazard and to teach that trial and error has helped develop the current safety protocol, because ever since this protocol was introduced, a certain type of incident was reduced by x percent over the last y years. Once there is this education, this is not to say that everyone’s risk perception will necessarily align, but this would do the trick of reducing that risk tolerance so that the perception will come closer to what is necessary and seen as reasonable and pragmatic.
To achieve this outcome takes something that many companies are not as willing to do – communicate openly and honestly. Sharing all the same risk and hazard information with workers that is usually reserved only for safety officers and management, and providing expert unbiased analysis of the information, will empower workers to better understand the relationship between the what and the why in safety, which will help change some perceptions about hazards and thus would help align thinking across the workplace.
The next post will go into risk being a mathematical equation that can help slice through perceptions and give truth. Then, we’ll look into the four quadrants related to the mathematical equation, which we touched on in the first post of this series.