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Meet one-on-one with Pat J. Karol

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Meet one-on-one with Pat J. Karol

Safety – Work or Passion?

I recently attended a dinner with several colleagues in the safety profession. While in a conversation a colleague asked me a safety related question. Unfortunately I don’t recall the specific question, but I do recall another colleague making a bold statement. It should be noted this colleague is relatively new to the safety profession and overheard the previous conversation. He postulated rather emphatically “can we stop talking about work?” I was a bit taken aback and awkwardly asked “what should we talk about?” This colleague’s response was essentially “anything, but work.”

Sometime later I reflected on that specific comment and a thought occurred to me, that my job, my chosen profession, is not work, it’s my passion! I enjoy and never tire of talking about safety. It does not matter the venue or company in attendance. That doesn’t mean I don’t have any other interests or enjoy talking about other topics.

I’m probably like many other safety professionals my age. I did not start my work career in safety and really had no aspirations to pursue a safety career. That’s until a co-worker was seriously injured. That event altered my career trajectory for the better.

I’ve been a full time safety professional for over 20 years now and it still does not feel like work. It is my passion because I have seen what can happen. I have seen the impact on the person, the business, and the individual’s family. Furthermore, I have also felt the satisfaction when every worker goes home the way they came to work, unhurt! I think that’s worth being passion about.

Bearing that information in mind, below are some questions to ponder:

– How do you know when someone is passionate about safety?

– What does safety as a job look like vs safety as a passion?

Here are my thoughts:

• If it is work then you ensure compliance by conducting audits and inspections. If it is your passion you stop to provide feedback or coaching, or to say thank you for following procedures. You might even explain the importance of those procedures and potential impact if not followed.

• If it is work you conduct investigations to find out what happened and who was at fault. If it’s your passion you conduct the investigation with the intent to find out what broke down in the process. You take the approach that the incident is an opportunity to make an improvement.

• If it is work you plan a pizza lunch every month your organization goes without reporting an injury. If it’s your passion, you don’t wait for the end of the month, quarter or year to show appreciation for doing what it takes to achieve a positive safety performance.

• If it’s work, you stop at 5:00. If it’s your passion you’re never really off the clock and always willing and interested to talk about safety.

I’m interested in your thoughts. Is safety your work or your passion, and what does it look like?

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