25th Sep, 2020 Read time 7 minutes

Critical Safety Thinking During The Pandemic

This article has been provided by Tap into Safety and looks at how to be a critical safety thinker during the pandemic.



We’re in the middle of a global pandemic that is affecting every country differently, so where does critical safety thinking play a part? Now more then ever, we need clear decision-making, concrete responses and open-communication to keep ourselves, our employees and their families safe. At the same time, we need to keep our businesses operating to reduce further negative impacts on our economies. Government leaders around the world are working hard to keep ahead of the pandemic and to lead into the road to recovery.

We’re searching for a vaccine and at the same time effective treatments for the virus. While protecting the health impacts, we’re also juggling the economic consequences of shutdowns, restructures and reductions in services of whole industries such as tourism, hospitality and entertainment.

This article draws on an essay published in June this year on critical thinking in this time of the global pandemic. Our focus is on critical safety thinking and how we can apply the concepts to help Leaders and Managers lead during the pandemic and beyond.


Leaders and Managers Play a Critical Role

As Leaders and Managers in your workplaces, you have a critical part to play during the pandemic lockdowns and recovery strategies. Many areas within our companies have taken a hit, and one of these is safety.

Firstly, we had to devise ways to operate safely while adhering to social distancing requirements. One strategy we are using is to have as many non-essential employees work from home.

Next, we have had to think about how we ensure the safety of employees who have had to remain in the workplace, and this requires a rethink and rewrite of our processes and policies. We have had to think of how we continue our companies services and at the same time keep a safe distance between our employees, increase our cleaning regimes and manage any outbreaks of the virus.

Now, we need to work out how we can deliver our safety training to ensure ongoing competence and evidence of compliance.

All of these require critical safety thinking.


The 5 Elements of Critical Thinking

There are five elements of critical thinking that we can apply during this global pandemic and they are having the correct understanding about issues, thinking for yourself and not being led by others,  proactively thinking and becoming active with issues, maintaining an open mind to other viewpoints and considering different avenues to the truth.


Seek Correct Understanding

To gain the correct understanding of an issue you must understand the context, the opposing viewpoints and the whole issue. The context is the setting or frame of reference. It can be social,
political, religious, economic, or scientific. If we do not understand the framework or connections of the issues at hand then we cannot make a full understanding, assessment or evaluation. Current examples are the announcements and what we hear and read about this pandemic. Where have they come from?

You must understand the opinions and ideas of others and their opposing viewpoints to achieve a balanced view.  Every day we are bombarded with opposing comments and opinions about how to manage the pandemic. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with differing viewpoints, just understand and acknowledge them. When we understand opposing views, we are in a better position to compare, to respond, to analyse rightly and correctly.

Aim to have a comprehensive understanding of the whole range of ideas, opinions, and views involved in the discussion of this global pandemic because it is so complex. Knowledge creates well-informed decisions that also protect you from criticism within your organisation. As a safety leader or manager, others look to you for critical safety thinking, knowledge and guidance.


Think For Yourself

To develop critical safety thinking, you cannot allow others to think for you. You shouldn’t simply follow what others think to adopt their ideas as your own. You must have your own assessment and evaluation of the issues and the surrounding information.

In this time of crisis, as a safety leader or manager, you need to be conscious that fake news and misinformation abound.

Sift through all the information and perform a risk assessment to determine the safest way forward. Conceive and formulate clear ideas and concepts; for example, craft workable or feasible solutions and adjust the work activities to the “new normal” scheme of things.


Become a Proactive Thinker

One element of critical safety thinking is to become a proactive thinker.  Use your intelligence, knowledge and abilities to deal with the varying daily situations and issues. You need to get your hands dirty and get involved, rather than remaining passive and indifferent.

In this time of crisis, you need to take initiative and make decisions on your own rather than waiting to be told of what to do or think. When you receive guidance or directions from the State or Federal Government and Chief Medical Officers, think about how to safely apply the new requirements. For example, when your business is in lock-down or adhering to physical distancing requirements.


Maintain an Open Mind

Our world is constantly and rapidly changing as we learn to live with the pandemic. Having an open-mind fosters a willingness to listen to the ideas and opinions of others. There are good ideas and thoughts we can learn from others, from new sources, from our new experiences, and our encounters with other people.

Numerous experts in different fields can contribute their knowledge and expertise to find or craft solutions to this enormous problem we are now facing.

The problem sometimes is that some people tend to cling to their ideas and views so tenaciously that they can no longer see, learn and accept new ideas. To encourage critical safety thinking you need to be open to new views, new interpretations, and new concepts. You need to arrive at valid arguments, acceptable justifications and sound reasons.


Consider Different Avenues to the Truth

The final element of critical safety thinking is to seek different avenues to the truth; different possibilities and different perspectives. Your beliefs or opinions represent only one view or perspective, other viewpoints are equally important or helpful. Combining differing perspectives provides a more complete understanding of a problem and ultimately to finding a suitable solution.

A critical thinker is a team-thinker who shares their ideas and thoughts and acts with others to come up with the best idea.

In this time of crisis, we need to think together as one. We need to collaborate and participate in finding a suitable solution for managing safety and our workplaces.


To Conclude

This article discusses critical safety thinking to help managers and leaders navigate the global pandemic. Critical safety thinking has five essential elements:

  1. Gain a proper understanding of the COVID-19 virus, the requirements to keep people safe and the information you read and hear every day.
  2. Formulate clear ideas and concepts to craft workable solutions to adjust work processes and activities to the“new normal” scheme of things.
  3. Make true and accurate judgments and decisions and sift out genuine news from ‘fake’ news.
  4. Arrive at valid arguments, acceptable justifications and sound reasons by engaging in meaningful conversations and discussions about this crisis.
  5. Collaborate because a critical thinker is a team-thinker who shares their ideas and thoughts and acts with others to come up with the best idea.

Brands who we work with

Sign up to our newsletter
Keep up to date with all HSE news and thought leadership interviews