Balancing Safety and Sustainability: Maintaining a Rational Perspective

I have found myself, albeit bleary eyed, at two recent business breakfasts in Aberdeen. One was focused on industry sentiment, the just transition and how Aberdeen is potentially losing out because of poorly formulated government policy; the other was focused on innovation.

What was particularly striking, was the concentration almost entirely on areas related to NetZero, sustainability, carbon reduction, and to a lesser extent productivity and improved efficiency. There was literally NO significant mention of safety. It feels like safety is being unconsciously overlooked amidst the fervour for sustainability.

Some might optimistically suggest that safety is already so deeply ingrained in industry practices that it no longer needs to be emphasized, or that the importance of the environment justifies reducing the industry focus on safety; neither argument is acceptable.

The latter argument, based on accepting short-term pain for long-term gain, is often used in relation to climate anxieties. However, this approach is not universally beneficial. Here are a few reasons why:

  • The well-being of individuals and communities should not be sacrificed in the pursuit of long-term gains. Ignoring immediate concerns for the sake of future benefits may result in negative consequences, such as compromising health, quality of life, or social equity through economic damage.
  • The future is uncertain, and projected outcomes may not materialize as expected. Changing market conditions, evolving technologies, or unforeseen events can disrupt long-term goals. It is crucial to consider the potential risks and uncertainties associated with sacrificing the present for an uncertain future. We are as a species notoriously bad at predicting the future.
  • Focusing solely on long-term gains can cause missed opportunities in the present. Excessively deferring investment in current needs may hinder personal well-being and hinder advancement. Capitalizing on immediate opportunities can contribute to a better quality of life and overall progress.

  • Overemphasizing long-term gains can create imbalances in various aspects of life. Neglecting personal relationships, health, or other essential needs in pursuit of distant goals can lead to burnout, diminished quality of life, and strained social connections.

While pursuing NetZero emissions is important, we must still prioritize personal safety and well-being. We need to foster a culture that values both safety and sustainability, ensuring workers' well-being remains a top priority in our journey towards a greener and safer future.