Every day we make choices; big choices and little choices, all of which are within our scope of control.
It’s the same with health and safety in the workplace. Working safely is a choice-based trajectory that individual workers follow on a daily basis. There are also rules, guidelines, structures, and requirements that help workers make the ‘right’ choice — which is to work safely.
However, no matter how much support is put in place, from time to time individual workers make the ‘wrong’ choice. It may be intentional or unintentional, but workers who make the choice to take a risk, choose to work unsafely. This choice all too often results in harm to themselves or to others in the workplace, sometimes with devastating consequences.
Besides the actual physical harm that can follow from unsafe work practices, other consequences include punishments imposed by provincially legislated health and safety sentencing systems. The judicial approaches to work-related health and safety violations have followed the traditional wisdom that penalties paid either with time (jail) or with money (fines) are sufficient to deter future violations and to compensate for harm caused.
But is the threat of punishment through these traditional methods enough to encourage individuals to make the decision to work safely? The province of Nova Scotia has decided it is not. In addition to the existing consequences, the province has introduced alternative sentencing options that focus on changing an individual’s behavior through “creative sentencing”.
Learning from those who have had to live with the consequences of their poor safety decisions is a powerful motivator. Let’s hope that these sessions lead to better choices, better decisions, and better safety practices for all.
- From your reading of this article, how do the creative sentencing alternatives impact the workplace?
- If you were the Health and Safety representative in your current organization, how could you change safety training sessions to incorporate some of the techniques identified in this article?
- If you had to choose between paying a fine and presenting a ‘lessons learned’ training session to others because your actions caused harm to someone in the workplace, which one would you choose? Explain your rationale.