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Blame Fixes Nothing. Full Stop.



The face I make when people "explain" to me that blame and pain creates safety 🤮🤮🤮


But really... BLAME FIXES NOTHING - zip, zero nada!


Blame feels really good - it feels like the right thing to do - but it's seductive call is an illusion.


We really favor blame in the space of employee safety. Blame is well primed due to the untrusting views already held about workers. These views are that much more untrusting when related to something as serious as safety and health. Adding fuel to the fire, most organizations view safety as a “you” based activity, as something you choose to get right (or wrong), as a simple endeavor that only requires enough attention, care, and focus, applied by the end user to get right as to avoid the occurrence of events. So, organizations see the application of blame as the obvious choice for most safety and health related missteps or events. Many organizations never trusted their workers to get safety right in the first place – hence their massive structures of rules, surveillance, and enforcement – so when a safety event eventually happens, the end user of the organizations safety systems is swiftly blamed, shamed, retrained, or worse.


We will then drag out our long list of “you” based safety platitudes. We will screech things like “you should have paid more attention” “you should have done a better hazard analysis,” “you should have been more responsible for your own safety!” We will look back on these horrific statements as causal of the event at hand and swiftly land on blaming the involved worker.


Possibly worse yet, we use the misguided beliefs as evidence for the need of even larger and stricter systems of distrust – even larger and harsher structures of rules, surveillance, and enforcement. On and on we go, deepening the divide between the organization and the people it employs, and ever strengthening the parent-child relationship we have built with the workforce.


😡😡😡 bUt wHUt AbOUt....?!?!!!


After an accident? Blame fixes nothing ❌

After an operational Suprise? Blame fixes nothing ❌

Not-so-great audit or assessment findings? Blame fixes nothing ❌

Someone made an error? Blame fixes nothing ❌


The application of blame and punishment within our work worlds does quite a bit, it just does not do what we think it does. We think that we are making our workplaces a bit safer by the removal of pesky and uncaring individuals, we feel that we are teaching people vital lessons through the purposeful application of pain and suffering, we believe that we are demonstrating to our employees the consequences of bending or breaking the rules by making hash examples out of those that do, and we have genuinely convinced ourselves that we will (eventually) punish our way to excellence. So, what actually happens because of our focus on retribution? Absolute silence – silence that is only broken when a failure is so large that it cannot be hidden away.

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