Our Safety Needs

I was not born a safety practitioner it took time effort, hours of studying, and many years of gaining experience at grassroots levels. Safety is not my second career; it is my second vocation, as I believe my upbringing and experiences guided me to my current calling as a fulfillment of my childhood wishes of service. My first vocation was the armed forces; this indeed taught me many transferrable skills that are useful, indeed great assets to me second vocation, such a leadership, and discipline commitment ability to read situations and people.

During our formative years and development, we learn many other useful skills for our chosen career, in my case; I was brought up in a working-class environment, in a coal-mining village in Yorkshire, UK. At that time coal mining was the main industry, everyone worked and played together. Some of the bonds made were therefore everlasting bonds and trust between households and families, indeed most of my relatives all worked in the coal mining industry or lived in the same village in Yorkshire. Sadly, after the industrial downturn in the UK in the mid-eighties, many of the coal mines had to close, sadly many of the communities that relied on them faltered and many of the people that invested their working lives in the coalmines now found themselves unemployed. This destroyed our community as many dreams and hopes were now left shattered as now individuals and organizations had a perceived lack of future and many basic needs would no longer be met.in doubt as the future looked.

You may be wondering what that has to do with safety management; well it is important to understand what motivates individuals, teams, and their colleagues safe. To enrich that understanding and gives them the drive and ambition to succeed it is helpful to understand Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.

Abraham Maslow is well renowned for proposing the Hierarchy of Needs Theory in 1943. This theory is a classical depiction of human motivation. This theory is based on the assumption that there is a hierarchy of five needs within each individual.

These five needs are as defined as follows:

  1. Physiological needs – These are the basic needs of air, water, food, clothing, and shelter. In other words, physiological needs are the needs for basic amenities of life.
  2. Safety needs – Safety needs include physical, environmental, and emotional safety and protection. For instance- Job security, financial security, protection from animals, family security, health security, etc.
  3. Social needs – Social needs include the need for love, affection, care, belongingness, and friendship.
  4. Esteem needs – Esteem needs are of two types: internal esteem needs (self-respect, confidence, competence, achievement, and freedom) and external esteem needs (recognition, power, status, attention, and admiration).
  5. Self-actualization need – This includes the urge to become what you are capable of becoming / what you have the potential to become. It includes the need for growth and self-contentment. It also includes a desire for gaining more knowledge, social- service, creativity, and being aesthetic. The self-actualization needs are never fully satiable. As an individual grows psychologically, opportunities keep cropping up to continue growing.

Maslow based this study on observations and many critics use the argument that this is not relevant in today’s society, however, I would like to explore the rationale and similarities of our current environment when faced with a global pandemic.

Our Physiologic needs do not differ and tend to align throughout every generation, the basic amenities of life are still required by the very fact that if we do not eat and drink then we cease to exist. The requirements for safety needs are also relevant, In today’s world, there is great uncertainty around job and financial security, which is realized daily, as we open the newspapers or browse the web we can see the impact of unemployment and retrenchments. Many organizations and companies are cutting staff and narrowing their operation indeed, many countries and region’s annual budgets are struggling to manage the effect of unexpected unemployment and retrenching of employees and citizens worldwide. Social needs are not being satisfied, we are restricted from socializing as we once could and many families remain separated during the pandemic, due to a risk of cross-contamination between families and high-risk individuals. Self Esteem needs are not a given and personnel has a limited ability for freedom, as many countries remain locked down, thus is providing isolation. This is affecting their own self-confidence as career goals, aspirations are no longer achievable for some and therefore the underlying strengths such as confidence and enhancing skills to deliver future competence are impacted. Finally, we are finding it increasingly difficult to achieve self-actualization in today’s society as all the other influences we have just mentioned are having a greater impact on us achieving our goals our self-worth and determination is harder to maintain.

As a safety practitioner and leader, we need to analyze this, Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs theory enables us to utilize these factors in motivating individuals or the collective group into performing work in a safe way. As leaders ensuring that, not only in safety we consider the group and individuals’ needs and wishes in daily routines.

As for safety leaders, it is important to consider that we ensure the basic theory is attainable, so far as re-is reasonable practical. Physiological needs; We should ensure that the managers recognize costs of living standards and minimum wage threshold so that salaries are at the correct level and individuals can purchase basic requirements to live, besides, breaks and opportunities to eat should be considered. Allowing workers to interact with colleagues either virtually or where number allow should satisfy the requirements to fulfill their social needs too Social needs can encompass team building sessions and social events to encourage belonging and the need to be part of the team.

Leaders should try to ensure that the Safety needs are considered which will take account of job security, safe work environment, and talent management to ensure we retain employees. Reassurance and understanding should be a key driver.

Rewards and recognition programs or specific rewards when employees reach or exceed work targets seek to fulfill the requirements of self-esteem in Maslow’s theory. Delivery of a defined career path with stepped increases in rewards and future delivery can assist in delivering the needs of self-actualization, also recognizing individuals’ or groups’ strengths and ensuring they can grow within the organization can ensure individuals remain challenged in the current environment with continuous development.

Again as a Safety leader, it is important to understand what drives our workforce and in particular, how we can assist them in delivering these needs for themselves as individuals. This also benefits the team and organization, only then can we utilize those needs to ensure that they are better equipped to work safely in a safe environment, delivering our holistic goals of “Everyone goes home safe” thus also fulfilling some of our needs.

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