Safety documentation saves lives - a continuation of the safeguard debate
So what I am thinking about a lot are the four types of safety work carried out by safety professionals defined by Drew Rae and David Provan in their 2019 safety science paper 'Safety work versus the safety of work' and referred to in their more recent study (along with Sidney Dekker) 'An ethnography of the safety professional's dilemma: Safety work or the safety of work?':
-Demonstrated safety work - Satisfying stakeholder demands for safety
-Social safety work - Re-enforcing the organisation's commitment to safety
-Administrative safety work - Complying with safety requirements
-Physical safety work - Changing the work environment for safety
The latter study shows that safety professionals tend to focus on 'blunt end safety work' (demonstrated, social, and administrative safety work), for many reasons, which is where the majority of safety documentation is produced. The same study shows that 'sharp end safety work' (physical safety work) is where a safety professional's work should be prioritised, however it is worth noting that the most effective application of physical safety work aligns with managing safety risk using the 'hierarchy of controls' and shows that paperwork (administrative controls) are the least effective remedy to improving the 'safety of work'.
Bottom line is:
-'Blunt end safety work' is important to an organisation but shouldn't be disproportionate to the 'Sharp end safety work'.
-Safety professionals require a degree of separation and autonomy from the internal management pressures to prioritise 'blunt end safety work' and ensure they are sufficiently connected to the organisation's operational work and the safety of that work.
-Safety professionals need to better leverage current safety science knowledge in the application of their work to achieve this.