The Safety Science Innovation Lab was founded to capitalize on the opportunities for collaboration between science, health, business and the humanities and social sciences. Critical innovations in safety science won't necessarily come from new technologies, but from a better understanding of complexity and social construction. What constitutes an error, a violation, or compliance, and who gets to say? How do we prevent practitioners from becoming the second victims of adverse events? To understand why things go wrong, should we not study how things go right and organizations are successful rather than just focusing on low-frequency negative events? The pursuit of these sorts of questions are key to an innovative future of safety science.
Our concern with innovating safety to meet the challenges of the 21st century are shared by industry in Australia and around the world. Traditional Health and Safety approaches in Australia have not changed substantially over the past 30 years and this has locked into place a number of practices and assumptions about compliance, protection, management systems, mishaps and root causes that have grown at odds with corporate complexities, productivity pressures and marketplace dynamics. Across Australian industry there are strong concerns that traditional OH&S is not only harming productivity, on-time performance and competitiveness but that it fails to make us safer in the workplace.
Central to our vision is the belief that three key transitions are necessary to transition into a new era in safety thinking:
- No longer seeing people as your problem to control, but as your solution to harness.
- Ceasing to see safety as the absence of negatives and instead enhancing the positive capacities to make things go right.
- Turning safety back into an ethical responsibility for people, rather than a bureaucratic accountability to people.
The image of humanity, projected by today’s safety thinking, is very negative and reductive. Typical safety thinking sees people as the problem to control; we promote a more philanthropic view of humanity where co-workers and employees are seen as the solution to harness sources of justice and resilience rather than triggers of failures and breakdown.