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As he approaches retirement, Certified Safety Professional Dan Hannan reflects on the purpose that drives his work. Photo: StockSnap

Safety With Purpose

With retirement on the horizon I’ve been listening more intently to the advice offered from those that are there and those that help retirees prepare for their “golden years.”  Finances are a large part of the discussion and most importantly—“You don’t want outlive your money!” Traveling, volunteering, hobbies, and visiting family and friends are no doubt prime post-career activities. One word though that keeps coming up in retirement messages is “purpose”.  Purpose keeps the mind and body active.  Purpose is the sum of the reasons that get you out of bed every day and compels you to move your feet.  Purpose is drive, passion, and determination to get something done.  Not to be confused with motivation…think of purpose as the strategy (why we do it) and motivation as the mechanism (how we do it). To live into retirement with purpose has even proven to add years to your life!

Finding Meaning in a Purpose Driven Life

Without purpose our life lacks value, enjoyment, and meaning.  As a safety professional I feel very lucky as my directive comes loaded with purpose.  Although I’m not a cop, fireman, or doctor I very much rise to the challenge of preventing hurt and harm from coming to others. Having been at it for 27 years my payoff and validation, although I’m not expecting it, comes in the form of someone acknowledging that I helped save their life or at least added to its quality.  I don’t need to hear that, I’m just saying it would be nice.  For those whose primary mission is not safety but holds some responsibility, where do you find your purpose to keep those around you safe and healthy?  And it’s OK to admit that we fall short in the purpose and motivation department every now and then.  Even safety professionals need an occasional refresh to refocus.  Here are a few reminders of what’s at the core of purpose.  Send me an email if you have others. (Find Dan’s email at the end of this blog.)

Dan’s Core Purpose in a Nutshell

  • Safety purpose is born out of and delivered through compassion. No one wants to see their co-worker, family, friend, or even a stranger suffer a serious injury.  The receiving end of a serious workplace injury is not good and oftentimes comes with life-changing impacts to everyone involved.  A life of physical pain and depression is no place where you would want anyone to be.  This compassion and empathy to preserve is at the core of why we want to be safety minded.
  • Contributing value is how we feel purpose. If you have the responsibility of directing others, as a supervisor for instance, it may be part of your purpose to account for the safety and health of those reporting to you.  But being held back in your authority or not given appropriate resources can cause you to question why we do what we do.  When we are limited in our ability to get the job done safely we start to question our value.  At times the safety message may fall on deaf ears however every effort adds up so never discount the value in even “minor” safety related interactions.
  • Safety is financial sustainability. It’s well understood that injuries cost money and can threaten sustainability.  Is your safety purpose driven by financial implications?  For those that oversee others injury losses that happen on your watch speak to the way you manage and impact profitability.  It’s ok though to be driven to help others through wanting to preserve the bottom line as long is the outcome is appropriately achieved.   Workers are human capital and to preserve their physical and mental health is job security.
  • Safety with purpose delivers peace of mind. My father started to figure out that his work exposure to paint and chemicals, as a commercial painter from 1950’s through the 1990’s, was likely going to cause him problems down the road.  Sure enough his suspicion was confirmed as his death due to lung cancer was chiefly caused by his occupational exposure.  An employer is charged with purpose to identify workplace hazards and keep their workers safe.  Employers find the greatest peace of mind knowing that they’ve done everything they can, even going beyond just OSHA required compliance, to preserve their worker’s wellbeing.

My transition from safety professional to retired safety professional I’m sure will be accompanied by stress and apprehension.  To the cut the cord and walk away completely will be tough as a working life of protecting others IS my purpose.  I’ll likely stay involved in health and safety somehow…who knows maybe I’ll have more time to author safety blogs!

Dan Hannan, safety professionalAbout the Author: Dan Hannan is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and has been practicing safety for twenty-four years.  He is presently the Safety Director for Merjent, an environmental and social consulting firm serving the world’s leading energy and natural resource companies. Merjent  consultants have decades of specialized experience on pipeline projects, including planning and feasibility, environmental permitting, construction compliance, operational compliance, third-party analyses, stakeholder engagement, and technology solutions.  Dan can be reached at dhannan@merjent.com.


Read more from Dan Hannan:

When Safety Hurts

All is good until it’s not–When safety practices strain company culture

Why strive to be the best when good enough is good enough?

“I Can’t Fix Stupid”—Zero Injury is an Impossible Goal

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