A Unifying Principle for a Researcher Learning Safety: Reduce Uncertainty!

2018-03-07T19:44:13Z (GMT) by Camilla Kao Russell Furr
Conveying safety information to researchers is challenging. A list of rules and best practices often is not remembered thoroughly even by individuals who want to remember everything. Researchers in science thinking according to principles: mathematical, physical, and chemical laws; biological paradigms. They use frameworks and logic, rather than memorization, to achieve the bulk of their work. Can safety be taught to researchers in a manner that matches with how they are trained to think? Is there a principle more defined than "Think safety!" that can help researchers make good decisions in situations that are complex, new, and demanding?

Effective trainings in other professions can arise from the use of a mission statement that participants internalize as a mental framework or model for future decision-making. We propose that mission statements incorporating the concept of reducing uncertainty could provide such a framework for learning safety. This essay briefly explains the definition of uncertainty in the context of health and safety, discusses the need for an individual to personalize a mission statement in order to internalize it, and connects the idea of greater control over a situation with less uncertainty with respect to safety. The principle of reducing uncertainty might also help non-researchers think about safety. People from all walks of life should be able to understand that more control over their situations provides more protection for them, their colleagues, and the environment.