August 24, 2011

Safety – An Affair of the Heart.

This is an appropriate time, I believe, to touch on the true reason for safety development and adherence.

This is not because of endless legislation.

This is not because it is good due diligence practice.

This is not because the corporate safety guy or gal is standing behind you or on the way.

And this is not because OHS officers are on their way for another jobsite inspection.

The true reason usually walks on two legs, waits with bated breath, hoping that you will use all the safety training and tools that have been developed to get you home safely. They also hope that the company you work for will provide you the proper opportunity to use this same training and tools.

The true reason may be male or female. The true reason may be a husband or a wife. The true reason may be an infant child or a growing teenager. The true reason may be family or friends.

The true reason shares a heart link with you – and loves you – and wants you to remain whole and healthy.

But when some of us never come home again – one fatality every three days, on average in Alberta – hearts are broken . . . forever.

The blood and sweat spilled in our industry belongs to us, the workers. But the endless lifetime of salted tears shed when an injured worker does not come home belong to those who have the least ability to impact our compliance.

More than ourselves, we owe it to those who wait at home to develop and use every tool at our disposal to ensure our safe return home . . . every single day of our lives.

There are also those who are not fatally injured but are mangled beyond previously held functionality. They may require assistance for everything – mobility, sustenance, bodily functions and cleansing – that the fortunate of us do every day without thinking, and even with less appreciation for this gift.

And it is often left to those who wait hopefully for us at home to help out with those needs, usually long after the immediate impact of a workplace incident is forgotten in a statistical maze that does nothing to staunch the endless river of silent tears.

Effective and Priceless

This writer has been working in the field of safety for nearly a dozen years, and has investigated more incidents than I care to remember. It never seems to matter what point of responsibility that I’m investigating from:

√ Every single incident is preventable, many of them with the use of simple tools or precautions, such as waiting for backup, pulling over to stop before reaching down;

√ Never drink and drive,

√ Don’t speed, and stop at stop signs;

√ Use proper PPE (it’s only effective if you wear it);

√ Do a pre-task hazard assessment (as simple as asking, What if …? ); and

√ Clean up minor spills.

There are so many more simple remedies that can prevent so much pain, but only if they are used constantly.

It is my experience that, as a rule of thumb, we perform the hazardous with great care and diligence. It is the mundane that we overlook and which often has the harshest bite.

Before I worked in safety I was out in the field for more years than I can easily remember, and often it was not good safety practices that got us home safely, but plain old shithouse luck. And that dear reader is neither a good nor an auditable management system.

Those of us who remember those days owe it to those who are coming up to take our place to change the culture that permeated our workforce back then. We live in an information age; however, we still need crews that can get down and dirty . . . safely.

We need to look into our hearts and understand that someone must have looked after us when we were learning the ropes. And now the turn is ours.

So, in this month of hearts and love, let’s devote ourselves each and every day to practicing the art of safety. When practiced properly, safety paints a wondrous picture – one of family and friends together without the pain of workplace injuries and loss.

We can offer no more valuable gift to our up-and-coming brothers and sisters than the installation of a culture of safety that is based on love and nurtured in our hearts.

Truly heart-based safety . . . effective and priceless for all levels of our industry, and for all members of our families.

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