Written by: Rick Mulkey
President at Compliance Safety Solutions
It isn’t very often that I have a day like the one I am about to describe. After all, it started off like most days. Hurry here, get this done. Get to the airport, turn in the car, get to the gate, catch the plane…all in a day’s work. During these moments while I am waiting at the airport or when I am actually in the air flying, I get to thinking about safety, where we are now, where we have been and where we are going.
Years ago when I had my first encounter with safety, it was in the Army. We trained day and night to not only take care of ourselves, but to assess the hazard and take care of our buddies, the other guys in our unit. Our battle cry then, as it should be now, was, “Everyone Goes Home.” Not just going home, but going home safe, uninjured, and with all our body parts – fingers and toes.
Like I said, the day was not a normal day. First, and most of us have been there, the flight was delayed from 3:30 p.m. until about 8:30 p.m. Of course, I was not sure if I would make my connecting flight. When we did leave, a fifty minute flight turned into an hour and a half flight, but all flights were delayed. Even my connecting flight was delayed. Now it is late, my mind is gone, empty and drained and it starts to play tricks on me. I wonder if this is what happens in the field when our craft professionals get tired and suffer from fatigue. Is this when the incidents, near misses, accidents and fatalities happen? Too many hours, too many shortcuts and a mind that is too drained to think.
I make my connection, and as we are being pushed back from the gate, the captain announces over the intercom that we have a military escort on board. Doesn’t mean much to most of the passengers but I knew what he meant. He continues by explaining that the sergeant is escorting one of our fallen heroes from Iraq. Reading between the lines, what he really means to say without being blunt is a flag-draped coffin is being escorted to its final destination to be met by an honor guard and the family.
Now, my mind was really racing. The first thing I recall is “everyone goes home,” but this was not what they meant. How did it happen? Was it his fault? Was it planning? Didn’t his buddies watch his back? All answers I didn’t have.
How do we make sure our craft professionals don’t fall into this trap? Do we know how to do our jobs safely? Do we know our limitations? Are we planning the job properly? Are our buddies watching our backs? Over and over again… “everyone goes home” was all I could think about.
Now we have landed and we are arriving at the terminal, pulling up to the gate, at our final destination. The military escort is the first off the plane. The honor guard and family of our fallen hero approach the plane, and a lady behind me says, “And I think I’ve had a bad day.”
As I get off the plane, along with about fifty others, we stand and line the window and watch as the casket appears from the belly of the plane. First, you see the red and white stripes emerge. Then the honor guard moves into position to lift the casket and carry it a few steps to slide it into the hearse. The family members are racked with pain as tears fall. The agony of the moment seizes everyone watching, and our thoughts and prayers go out to this family that none of us have ever met.
It is now 2:00 a.m., and my head is finally on the pillow. Late flight, missing luggage. . . these mean nothing. What can I do? What can I say? How can I convince field personnel at job sites and leaders at companies where we provide safety services how important it is to be safe? Know our jobs and know our limitations, plan our work, watch your buddies back.
I have been in the safety industry over 30 years. On more than one occasion I have had the duty to tell a family that a loved one was injured in an accident or the worst has happened and they won’t be coming home. You hesitate before you knock on the door as you get that knot in your stomach and your mouth gets dry and your eyes fill-up with tears and all of a sudden you are looking at the family and the children. Believe me, that is one day you will never forget.
So, when we talk about safety and give our safety meetings or provide a training class and we have a couple of guys with their heads on their arm “resting” or the cell phone has their attention, please remember this article. Show them that you care.
How will you impress to the group or class how important it is that, Everyone goes home!