15 Feb Five Thoughts about Health and Safety: from the Daughter of a Health and Safety Professional
Growing up, my dad had many nicknames – Mr. Safety, Captain Safety, and now that I have a daughter, we lovingly refer to him as Papa Safety. He has dedicated his life and his heart to the health and safety of workers in many industries. From watching him work tirelessly to train production workers, educate management, and investigate fatalities, I have learned the following lessons:
- It’s easy to blame the worker. Yes, people take shortcuts. Those so-called “shortcuts” are most often workers trying hard to do the best job they can on behalf of themselves and their employer. The conditions and circumstances that lead to these “shortcuts” should be identified by safety professionals and a fix should be in place. If we can error proof elevator doors from shutting on people, we can error proof someone accessing a machine without lockout.
- Not all companies are bad. You always hear, “bad things happen to good people.” I believe this is the same for most companies. The price to pay for serious incidents and fatalities is more than just money out the door. The company knows there are the victims who suffer and families that can be devastated – not to mention the lasting impact on co-workers, supervisors and all who witnessed the event or knew the victim. Most companies know preventing bad things from happening takes a 24/7 365 commitment.
- Safety is often taken for granted or overlooked by both the worker and the company. We recently had a discussion about risk tolerance. After touring several manufacturing facilities in the last year, I realize that some people are willing to scale scaffolding without harnesses, work near moving equipment where hazards are unprotected, and walk around others using fork trucks. As I was shielding my eyes from a bright light and watching shards of metal fly past my face, I realized that my desk job is the risk level I am willing to tolerate. An elevated risk tolerance can lead to a worker or a company overlooking safety policies. It is important for both companies and workers to not take policies for granted.
- People want to go home to their families at night. It is rare to find a hardworking individual who is not interested in tucking his/her children into bed and kissing their spouse goodnight. No one comes to work in the morning to get injured or worse!
- Collaboration is the key to success. It takes collaboration between worker and company to create a successful safety system. The company can mandate harnesses while working at heights, but workers are less likely to wear them if the harnesses don’t fit well and slow down production. No one wants to be blamed for not doing their job well. A safety system works better when workers and the company collaborate.
I am not a safety expert. But, Papa Safety’s daughter can see that when companies and workers align safety as their number one goal, collaborate on best practices, and have some empathy – safety systems work!