Bridging the Theory-Practice Gap

After what seems (actually, what is) a very long time, Challenging the Safety Quo is finally published this week through Routledge. Note that this is mainly due to the couple of years it took me to get it from ‘I mostly know what I want to say’ to ‘something vaguely readable’. It is not due to delays in publishing, which has gone exactly according to schedule (in fact, slightly ahead of schedule).

Many people have raised issues and concerns with how we currently manage safety and have been doing so for many years, but this thinking has stubbornly refused to leap from theory to widespread practice. One of the reasons for this, I think, has been the gap between the academic nature of such publications and the practical bent of the those who implement on the ground. In the book, I’ve covered the issues that I see every day in a way that will resonate with people charged with the responsibility of managing safety – whether they are safety managers or operational managers (of course, we should all be both, but that may be a few evolutions away). In doing this, I have probably sacrificed some technical accuracy for accessibility and practicality. I think this is a worthwhile compromise if it starts to close the gap.

It’s slightly nerve-wracking going to publication. It’s one thing to discuss this one-on-one with people, but it’s entirely another to put it out there in print for people to explore in detail in the public domain. Having said that, my main aim is to challenge (as the title suggests) and get more people thinking deeply and critically about safety. If it does that, then I’ve succeeded even if (or maybe especially if) people take an entirely different approach to mine after reading it.

Standard disclaimer: the views in the book are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of all or any of the companies I have worked with over the years. There is, after all, no definitive right way of doing this. Although, perhaps, there are a few wrong ones in common use.

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