Written by Brent Knight, President of ISS

The field of safety and positions within safety were very compliance-driven for many years.  We developed rules or policies that complied with regulatory requirements and then we policed and enforced those rules.  This often did not make the safety professional a popular person.

Things have changed and there is a much stronger and better-understood argument for safe work.  I think that there are three key reasons for this.  First, accidents are expensive.  They cost businesses money when they occur…and then they keep costing money in increased insurance premiums for years to come.  Secondly, the penalty for non-compliance can be steep and cost both money and reputation.  This is not good for business continuity.  Thirdly, we don’t want people to get hurt.  Obviously, hurting people is bad business and many of us share the goal and value that we want to send our employees home safely every night.

You would expect that compliance would be a no-brainer with a great commitment to safe work, but it still is not.  In reality, people hate change.  Often, we ask them to change the way they do something when we ask them to work safely.  The way to overcome the game of cat and mouse and to achieve compliance is to drive the message of what’s in it for them or WIIFM.  This is basic human psychology, but if we skip the niceties and fail to get workers to truly understand and care about the big WHY then we are destined to fail.