I stumbled on a book called “Steal Like An Artist” by Austin Kleon the other day. His point is that nothing is completely original, it all builds from the things that came before it.
I realized that this applies to safety as well. A lot of people have come up with their own version of some safety advancement and the natural thing is to try to “protect the brand,” but in reality, every step forward we take in safety builds on some advance that someone else did somewhere else. So maybe we need to admit that and, if we are stealing, let’s steal from the best.
Just a few concepts from the book that may apply to this process of taking the best of what is around us to develop our own programs:
- Don’t think for a minute that you are coming up with some great program that no one has ever thought of before.
- “There’s nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
- Don’t worry about what safety initiatives are good or bad; the test is whether you would want to use it. Or as Kleon says “there’s only stuff worth stealing, and stuff that’s not worth stealing.”
- A great idea isn’t worth much if it isn’t being used and you might as well be the one to use it.
- “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. but since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” (Andre Gide)
- “It is better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around neglected.” (Mark Twain)
There is another way to look at all this. If company A has a better lockout/tagout policy than company B, doesn’t company B have a duty to its workers to adopt the better program? Is that stealing or being responsible?
That is not to say safety professionals shouldn’t get paid for their work and the programs they develop, but it is saying we should not ignore other safety initiatives just because we didn’t think of them first. We often hear that safety shouldn’t be a secret. This concept moves it one step forward. Safety needs to be stolen.