How to Leave the Safety Industry

imageI regularly get contacts from people who want to leave the safety industry and don’t know how.

Most often these people enter the industry with a passion for care and helping others. They often have a passion for learning. It doesn’t take long before they realise that the industry is not like that. But the income is good, they have mortgages to pay but they then become entrapped in a merry go round of flipping from company to company searching for a place where they can find care, helping and learning. This rarely happens.

The person who called me this week entered the safety industry 20 years ago and has worked across 8 companies, all tier 1s. When I first met him 20 years ago, I was doing training in SPoR with his company was Tier 1 but very much NOT framed by Zero. There was none of the nonsense of ‘safety first’, ‘safety saves’ or safety is the ‘first priority’ lie or any of the safety mythology one experiences in Tier 1 organisations that think safety is a propaganda exercise.

He was happy there as were all the other safety people but when the company was taken over by a zero company, it all changed and his merry go around journey started. In less than a few months 90% of all staff had left the company. Since then he has worked in 7 companies in 10 years.

This person is now 43, has 3 children, a mortgage, a safety degree and a resume that smells ‘safety’. Once someone has a longitudinal career in safety it is nearly impossible to transition to a profession. The mono-disciplinary nature of safety, its culture of policing and objects-focused methods, make transitioning nearly impossible.

More so, if one seeks a transition out of safety, say into a profession like community work, counselling, teaching, nursing ie. caring professions, one would have to take a 50% pay cut. This person who called me was on a salary 70% more than both my daughters in Nursing and Teaching. How easy to make money from checklisting, policing objects and counting injury rates. The trouble is what my friend discovered, was a complete lack of meaning, motivation ( ) and purpose in what he was doing.

Contrary to all behaviourist mythology, people are NOT motivated for career (vocation) by money ( ). Any enticing money lasts about 3 months into a job and it doesn’t take long, no matter what your income, when meaning and purpose has been lost to lose interest in your work. In the case of my friend, his search for a ‘caring profession’ was not found in safety. So, he was in a dilemma. Similarly, we discussed his age and the time for any window of opportunity to transition out.

Many people who are attracted to the Social Psychology of Risk are seeking knowledge and skills to help them humanise what they can do compared to traditional safety. The trouble is, after 50 years of evolution as an industry in engineering, behaviourism and zero, very few organisations want any more from safety people than policing and counting.

Sometimes people get lucky and find an organisation that welcomes SPoR and a passion to do What Works! So, if a safety person actually finds and organisation that knows how to humanise risk, do not leave that organisation despite the attraction of more money.

So, if you want to leave safety and transition into a caring profession here are a few things you can do to get started.

  1. The first things one needs to do is study a qualification that has broad appeal eg. A diploma in counselling, community, cross cultural studies etc. I often suggest this qualification as a start: This is a wonderful course for anyone who is looking for a career in a caring profession. The course can be done 12 full time or 2 years part-time. More importantly, the content of the course is person-centric and provides many of the people skills safety so desperately needs.
  2. The next thing to do is to start volunteering in the area that one has a passion. It is important that if one wants to be professional that one develops experience in a profession. This includes learning about all the foundational skills of any caring profession.
  3. Once one gets some experience of another world one begins to develop a Transdisciplinary view beyond the mono-disciplinary view of safety. This often broadens horizons and evolves options to help one discover what one could transition to.
  4. The next thing to do is reshape that resume perhaps even emphasising the Health aspect of safety, which of course we know is not what Safety does.

I remember when Rob Sams (, I’m Just Not That Into Safety Anymore) got out of safety he couldn’t believe his luck. Rob is now Executive Director of Lifeline Direct . He’s now in a profession that ‘saves lives’ but they never claim such pretentious heroic ideology. Rob finally found the alignment of his vocation with an occupation in a caring profession. He states: “Lifeline has a proud history of being in community, for community and with community, and this aligns well with my personal values”.

I remember when Gabrielle Carlton (; left safety, she too had to work through the pain of reshaping her profile and resume. She is now a senior executive in an IT company responsible for People and Culture.

It is confirmation that safety is not about caring when one reads the AIHS BoK Chapter of Ethics. Nothing on caring, care ethics or helping. Astounding to think an association and industry wants to portray an identity in ethics and complete silence on care ethics. Says it all.

So, it can be done, but it takes quite a strategic approach, reshaping profile and identity, ( ) qualifications, experience so that one doesn’t ‘smell’ like Safety.

I could tell the stories of many others who have managed the challenge of transition away from the safety-zero industry. These people who have left the safety-zero industry now claim less income but greater alignment between vocation and occupation, meaning and purpose. They speak about the fulfilment of going to work, of being person-centric, caring-helping.

So, if you are happy in safety then stay. If you are not and want to transition out, then maybe this blog may ‘help’.

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