Wallflowers are under appreciated. I’m not talking about the rock band fronted by Jakob Dylan, son of 60’s rock legend Bob Dylan. No, I’m talking about the unassuming, shy, serious, soft-spoken, thoughtful folks that would rather read a book than attend a party. You know, the sort of introspective-types that tend to spend their energy quietly going about their days inconspicuously. These docile listeners are commonly labeled “introverts.” It’s a shame that society mistakenly overlooks these quiet ones’ contributions and overly acknowledges and rewards the aggressive, outspoken, hard-charging social go-getters. Think about it: the social spot-light shines brightest on the accomplishments of successful attention seekers like Donald Trump, Shaquille O’Neal and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – all unashamed extraverts. At the same time, society doesn’t often immediately recall the quiet, yet significant, accomplishments of Warren Buffet, John Stockton and Rosa Parks – all accomplished introverts.
Not to put too fine a point on it but think about the three aforementioned introverts for a moment. The business world has benefited greatly from Warren Buffet, the NBA is tremendously grateful for John Stockton’s legendary career and the contribution of Rosa Parks to the Civil Rights movement is immeasurable. These “wallflowers,” “introverts,” “quiet ones” or whatever you may call them, are outstanding in their own unassuming way. Their contributions to the world speak just as meaningfully as their noisier, more recognizable counterparts. Great accomplishment is not just relegated to attention seeking extraverts. Meaningful contribution to life’s conversation echoes as clearly from the wallflowers of the world as it does from the soap box addicts that constantly campaign for your attention. So what does all this have to do with safety? Glad you asked!
The message of workplace safety is boldly declared loudly and clearly from company safety representatives each day. Businesses hire these subject-matter extroverts to represent the company’s interests in keeping people safe and the good ones do just that – loudly and clearly! These toastmasters of risk that enthusiastically perform their craft well will observe workplace hazards, grab the nearest megaphone and shout a warning from the roof tops for all to hear. This is actually a good thing; however, many organizations carelessly delegate the important duty of identifying workplace hazards to only company safety representatives and sadly ignore the softer-spoken, discounted warning from the more numerous employees at large. These shyer hazard-identification voices, if overlooked, are a huge missed potential for reducing risk. That won’t do!
So true it is that safety professionals are typically the ones most ideally prepared and equipped to identify workplace hazard. I won’t challenge you on that point; I am one of those safety professionals! It is also true that when an organization assigns the task of hazard identification to others besides the safety representative, workplace injuries reduce in a fantastic way. The safety gurus and data heads at Predictive Solutions have proven this point to be true and call this phenomenon “Safety Truth #2.” The top of the graph shown below happens to represent actual data collected by Predictive Solutions illustrating organizations that assign only the safety professionals to seek out hazard in the workplace. See how many unwanted incidents those businesses experience? Now take a look at the bottom of the graph, as diversity is increased. When hazard identification is assigned to a diverse group that extends beyond just the safety specialist, those unwanted incidences begin to shrink. You can’t ignore those results. Troubling workplace incidents reduce when a diverse group of employees join together to find and remove hazard from the workplace. Now that’s a truth I like!
Some savvy practitioners of loss control would classify the results of achieving Safety Truth #2 as effective employee involvement in the safety program. I completely agree. To those same safety practitioners that tirelessly preach this truth and message of safety day-in and day-out, garnering management commitment and soliciting employee involvement to safety, I say preach on! Let us unite our voices to strengthen our message and gather more and more confederates to our cause. And, while we’re uniting and hollering, as we safety extroverts like to do, let us not forget to include the wallflowers in our efforts to weed hazard out of the workplace. Their quieter, softer-spoken but legitimate help will go a long way and toward keeping organizations safe and hazard free.
You can’t deny the business world would be poorer without investing icon Warren Buffett, the NBA would be seriously lacking without the assists-and-steals leader John Stockton, and I don’t even want to think of where we’d be right now without the quiet-yet-bold actions of Rosa Parks. These high-achieving introverts leave a powerful impression on alert admires of their individual realms. In the realm of safety let us also empower the safety introverts and listen to their hazard identification message loud and clear. As we pay attention to these safety wallflowers, the truth of hazard reduction will be realized and greater workplace safety will be achieved.