Key Takeaways

* Good leaders solve problems, but great leaders prevent problems from happening.

* This article provides clues to address two basic concerns: why risks remain hidden in organizations, and how to uncover hidden risks.

* The safety profession is about prevention. Safety professionals add value to their organizations by proactively identifying existing threats and opportunities to prevent injuries and fatalities.

As leadership expert Jim Collins (2001) affirms in the book Good to Great, “Good is the enemy of the great.” The time devoted to good efforts can prohibit individuals and organizations from doing great things that bring forth superior results. The sincere efforts organizations make reacting to injuries and adverse events are good. On the other hand, the effective efforts that lead to preventing these injuries in the first place are great.

Becoming great in safety management involves designing systems that effectively identify and address risks. Identifying risks can be especially challenging because serious risks and safety-related problems often remain hidden within an organization.

Great leaders find problems before they result in disasters. Timing is the critical factor in proactive approaches. Great leaders observe, inquire, and reflect on lessons learned and recognize patterns in their organizations. These skills and a mindset of intellectual curiosity are essential for optimal safety performance. These skills can be learned by leaders and safety professionals.

How can organizations identify issues or hazards before they develop into major problems? This article explores two important questions: 1. why do risks sometimes remain hidden in organizations?; and 2. how do we uncover the hidden risks in organizations?

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