Corrie Pitzer outlines potential evolution of, challenges for safety during Leadership Keynote

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Houston — Understanding risks and relying on human intelligence instead of only technological advances likely will play significant roles in the future of safety, SAFEmap International CEO Corrie Pitzer said during Tuesday’s Leadership Keynote at the 2018 National Safety Council Congress & Expo.

However, he added: “In safety, we don’t know what we don’t know.”

Pitzer guided the audience on a journey through different evolutions of safety and what he called “Safety 3,” coming sometime in the next 15 to 20 years. In every evolution, safety professionals can hit a wall, he said.

In the case of “Safety 2,” it is the increase in occupational fatalities over the past three years.

One of the root causes, Pitzer said, is that we are “paralyzed by protection.” As an example, he described how children play on safer playgrounds but still dart out in front of trucks without looking because they do not understand the risks of life.

As a counterpoint on the dangers on making workplaces “too safe,” Pitzer pointed to a cliff in Norway that did not have a fence around it. If a fence was installed, he said, visitors might become too reliant on the safety measure and take more risks.

“Our employees don’t understand risk because we protect them,” Pitzer said. “They have to get back to understanding risk.”

Although technology such as driverless cars could mitigate some risk, it also might allow people to turn off their brains, Pitzer said, adding that “technology will never have a heart and never make the moral choice.”

For example, he showed a slide of a company potentially ready for the forthcoming changes. That organization used goals such as looking beyond numbers (i.e., total recordables), focusing on “high consequence” harm/potential, and understanding that people are the strongest link.

One of the biggest tools for the future remains passion for safety, Pitzer said, “that will take us into the future.”

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