Just When You Thought It Was Safe…

You have the policies and procedures in place. You have established smart practices for tasks. You train your employees the best way to work safely so you can send them home at night in one piece to their family.

Then you walk through your location and see: expired fire extinguishers, blocked egress paths, poor ladder storage, an electrical junction box with no cover, unlabeled electrical panels, taped over electrical breakers, expired eye wash solution, keys in energized machinery with no one using the item or within thirty feet of it.

Most likely either one, or both of two things are present…production has outpaced prudence in the ranking or complacency has set in.  At this time of year when many of us are faced with new challenges and the push to “make it happen”, there is the temptation to put aside prudent work practices in favor of a faster paced work site.  While you may not always be able to effect change of that behavior, especially if support from above you isn’t as strong as you would like or need, you can always ask the question… “What is the plan to get this done if you lose someone to an injury?”  If budget considerations are an overriding factor for your department heads, you can ask, “How much overtime has been authorized to pay out so you can get this done when you lose someone to an injury?”  Or you can appeal to their ego and ask, “You’re getting this done following all our regular practices and the other locations want to know how you’re doing it – what’s the secret?”  If you’ve got rapport with your supervisory staff, beginning that conversation will give you the opening to reinforce that “working smart and working safe” is the only way to work.  Refer to prior injuries to well liked workers to drive the point home. Recall the time away from work and the impact on the employee and their family.  Then point out that the wear and tear onthe supervisor and remaining staff will be that much greater with a reduced staffing level and no accompanying reduction in the work needing to be done. Appeal to their self-preservation if nothing else.  If everyone stays safe, there are more people to get the work done.  Getting the work done keeps the Big Boss happy and when the Big Boss is happy, we’re all happy.

On the other end of the spectrum, the ho-hum of complacency may have set in.  Employees may not realize a worksite that was always consistently safe was that way only because everyone actively participated in making sure it was so.  To these employees, ask what happens if no one fills the salt shaker or to really get their attention, what happens if no one puts toilet paper on the grocery list.  Yikes!  To bring it back to the work place, ask them what happens if you’re off, there’s a need to evacuate the building, you didn’t move that last pallet that got pulled out into the aisle when re-arranging the product and someone doesn’t make it out of the building.  Do you want to live with that?  Since we can’t perform the Vulcan mind meld and compel everyone to always work safely, let’s be realistic, that would take two minds and there aren’t necessarily always two minds present, we’ve got to rely on being the visible reminder that working smart is working safe and is the only way to accomplish our mutual goals to include everyone going home at night in one piece to their family.

Written by Janine Bain,
Director – Corporate Risk and Compliance
Goodwill Industries Suncoast, Inc

Leave a Reply