Safety Innovation – What can we learn from Henry Ford?

Innovation – Model T or faster horses?

What safety innovation are you working on? I read the following quote from Henry Ford the other night….“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”.

I pondered this for a while. It struck a cord with what was going on in my workplace.

When I ask our managers what they want, they tell me “A workforce which complies with the safety rules”.

So, all we need to do is to tell them what we want and put consequences in place. If we aren’t getting the performance we need, just make the rules clearer and consequences stronger. Does that sound like “faster horses” to you?

I suppose this is where the quote resonated. For people not to get injured, they need to display certain actions (behaviours) at specific times (when surrounded by hazards). At the most fundamental level, they need to stay out of the line of fire. Don’t contact the thing which will hurt you.

Agreement on staying out of the line of fire seems universal but how to do this appears to be issue. Today’s horse method seems to be “rules and compliance” to get the behaviour we want. But how would Henry Ford think about this? What safety innovation in behavioural change would he come up with? A more effective way to get from A to B. Just like the Model T.

Do you see safety professionals exploring innovations in safety?

What innovation will lead to safety’s Model T equivalent? What does this look like? Are we actually looking?

Full of questions I know! My search is pretty broad. I’m looking in the areas of behavioural economics, leadership, marketing and neuroscience in terms of the latest studies but we know the ancients knew a thing or two about how humans work.

Written works from the likes of Seneca and Aurelius are full of deep thinking and accurate observations of self and others. There is a richness in this knowledge. I believe the answers lie somewhere amongst the new and old scholarly works.

Are we driving safety innovations for our teams to be safe or looking for faster horses?

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