Are You Looking For Safety In The Right Places?

Are You Looking For Safety In The Right Places?

Or are you getting distracted?

This sentiment isn’t too far off from “concerns” I’ve heard

I was recently invited to do a podcast with John Chapman on his Blue Collar Voices show. Check it out if you haven’t yet. It was a great conversation. John caught me off guard at one point, though, when he asked me if my experience and training made me constantly notice all of the hazards around me.

I had to think about my answer for a minute, because in some respects I suppose those of us in this field do notice more than the average person (not always though). But fixating on every hazard out there can easily lead to an existence of fear and irrationality. So what I told John is that I try to prioritize my observations and find the big things. That’s not to say we should ignore issues on our work sites, only that some deserve more attention than others.

Getting wrapped up in the trivial is what drives arbitrary rules, unjustified expenses, and encourages weakness in the name of preventing strains. It’s something I imagine every safety professional has tripped up on now and again. If for no other reason than genuinely trying to help someone.

Because safety is… emotional

How many times have you had a safety concern brought to your attention that just sounded scary? Or, even worse, how often has a fellow safety professional (maybe a superior) elevated a minor issue to a place of prominence when far greater issues exist? We should be prioritizing those issues instead. Sometimes that just means educating people on the differences between hazards and risks. When we don’t do a good job at that, workers roll their eyes at our “safety” programs.

And I can’t really blame them.

Craig strikes again!

A couple weeks ago I posted about a villainous construction superintendent who nearly created a riot in the site parking lot. He actually did a lot of things that put safety on perpetual rewind. Another of those episodes was his initiative to eliminate tripping.

At it’s core, the objective was actually a good one, but the correction was not commensurate with the risk. The issue was simple. Someone had stepped over (instead of ducking under) caution tape and tripped, resulting in a first aid injury. The fix was overkill. From that day forward, the mandate became that all temporary caution tape installations were to have a top and middle “rail,” and an entry gate.

Some would certainly agree that his “solution” solved the problem. I would argue that a little bit of personal responsibility and accountability would have done the same. What we ended up with was a whole lot of waste, extra work, and snide comments. I wonder what might have been missed while everyone was distracted by the fancy plastic barriers.

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I Failed A Hearing Test And Got A Brain Scan

Military hearing tests are not much different than civilian ones… except…

Time moves slower when you’re locked inside a dark metal box. In my estimation I was in that hearing booth for at least 30 minutes before ripping off my headphones and busting out. It actually wasn’t completely dark, but I take hearing tests with my eyes closed and try not to move. I’ve had mild hearing loss since experiencing a rash of ear infections as a kid. They culminated in three surgeries and, as one of my doctors put it, scar tissue that “looks like Freddy Kruger’s face.” The test is always stressful for me. This one would not end.

I looked around the room as my eyes adjusted and spotted the technician running my test. She looked startled, but appeared to know why I was out. During the test I kept hearing a strange, staticy “click click” sound followed by tones I had already heard and mashed my little red button to acknowledge.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“You’re failing sir,” She replied.

“Ok, and?” I waited for a moment but she stayed silent. “Why isn’t it ending then?” She looked at me and blushed a little then cleared her throat.

“I’ve been restarting it. I need you to pass or you’ll have to see the doctor.”

“So, write that down that I failed and let me go see the doctor.” I said. Terror entered her eyes. She was about to object when I stopped her. “I’ll tell him I i insisted.”

She reluctantly complied, printed out my failed test, and told me to wait in the corner for the doctor.

Turns out my brain looks like everyone else’s… mostly

The “doctor” met me in a small, windowless room full of filing cabinets. He was a US Air Force officer, but he was clearly from somewhere else. I didn’t notice as he looked over my paperwork but then he spoke to me in a thick accent. I couldn’t place it, mainly because I was distracted by the fact that he only had three front teeth.

“Basically I do not want to do the paper works. They are a pain in my ass.” No exaggeration, that’s what he told me. “You come back tomorrow. You’ll pass.”

I most certainly did not pass. In fact, I rode my motorcycle to work just to make sure nothing was too quiet before the redo. My second test was identical, though: a 30 dB shift in my left ear only. That was alarming to every other doctor except Major Care-Less. I didn’t know it at the time but unilateral shifts that severe are really uncommon unless you have some known trauma… or a brain tumor. Hence the brain scan.

That showed nothing except a mild Chiari Malformation (my brain tissue extends into my spinal canal) . It doesn’t actually affect me any way, but I choose to believe it’s there because my brain was just too big to fit into a normal skull. In any case, no one could figure out what had caused my sudden hearing loss.

Then the light-bulb moment struck

Shortly after all of the tests and evaluations came up empty, I was reassigned from missile maintenance to the munitions safety and training office. As I was finishing packing up one day, I heard an all-too-familiar pop from behind the shop. Someone had just released the pressure on the storage tank of our mobile high-pressure compressor. It was something I’d done hundreds of times myself. The closest thing I can compare it to is a shotgun blast, followed by the high pitched hiss of compressed air.

The sound echoed through my skull and made my left ear throb despite the fact that I was inside. Then it hit me. I knew exactly what had caused my hearing loss. The compressor.

I replayed all of the times I had gone out to release the pressure on that unit in slow-motion. When all the tool kits were open and people were working in the shop it was easy to grab some ear plugs and a pair of ear muffs (both were required for that operation) and run to the back pad to release the air. But that’s not what typically happened.

Typically we would only run it for half a day and then turn off the engine. Inevitably we would forget the tank was still pressurized until all of the tools and supplies were inventoried and locked up for the day. No one wanted to sign anything back out at that point, so we (or at least I) had a habit of running to the pad and plugging our ears with our fingers. That meant one hand had to dislodge to pull the pin. I always used my left.

Protect yo selfs

I don’t usually get too technical in these posts, but you can’t grow your hearing back. Here are a few things to consider about hearing protection:

  • The goal for using hearing protection is to attenuate noise levels to a safe level. For example, if a worker is exposed to 95 dB, their hearing protector needs to provide either 5 dB (to meet the OSHA PEL) or 10 dB (to meet the NIOSH PEL) of protection.
  • The “best” hearing protection is the model you wear correctly and consistently.
    • Individual fit testing can aid in determining this for users.
    • An easy test for ear canal inserts is to cup your hand over your ear. If there is no change in sound when doing so, the protector is most likely inserted properly.
  • Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR) found on hearing protectors are determined in a laboratory setting. Actual noise reduction depends on how it is used (see first bullet).
  • “Double” hearing protection through the use of ear canal inserts and the addition of ear muffs does not provide “double” the attenuation.
    • When both types are worn properly, the addition of muffs only adds about 5 dB of protection (for more information see http://www.caohc.org/)

Here’s the other thing

I have no excuse for plugging my ears with my fingers. I knew it was wrong. Procedures aren’t exactly negotiable in the military (as long as you didn’t get caught). I even knew that it hurt. But understanding risk isn’t always intuitive. I had no idea that a few seconds every day could cause permanent damage. Now that I know, it’s easy to say my actions were dumb. That goes for any stupid action by anyone, really.

But next time you start down that path just take a moment and consider how many times you’ve knowingly taken a risk, lost on that bet, and then thought “well that was dumb.” Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know.

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Park Backward… Or Else: How to Incite Maliciously Compliant Safety

Read and heed if you want to avoid death threats

Everyone who’s worked on a construction site has met the iron-fisted superintendent in this story (figuratively at least, I’m sorry if you’ve ever met the real guy). We’ll call him… Craig. Just like the villain in some of my previous posts. My apologies to any nice guys named Craig.

Anyhoo Craig, as you can imagine, was a special kind of awful. He was tall, massively built, and intimidating. But only in a physical sense. Intellectually he was a rather small man. His authority was borne only from the fear of being walked out the gate should you test him.

He and I didn’t cross paths much because I worked on the operational part of that particular plant. His crew was in the commissioning phase of the project and due to mobilize out within a year or so. I mostly just rolled my eyes whenever I happened upon him belittling someone or making some stupid, arbitrarily rule. Seldom did his reign of terror affect my team.

Until one day…

Craig’s administrative assistant was walking in the parking lot (looking at her phone), when a car reversed out of it’s spot. You guys, she totally, almost, DIED! According to her. To be fair, I didn’t see it happen, but I imagine it was not the near death experience it was made out to be.

Over the next several weeks parking lot safety was the thing. There were reports of similar occurrences and a band of do-gooders rallied for change before someone was killt (not the garment). Then came the all too familiar “solution” when one of Craig’s henchmen suggested that “people always back into parking spots” where he came from (which may as well have been Narnia as far as I’m concerned).

So parking backward (backing in) became policy… lest ye be written up. It was one of those perfect examples of trying to eliminate a hazard by creating more. Because, to put it lightly, we SUCKED at parking backward. What had been a relatively calm patch of dirt with rows marked by railroad ties became a thunder-dome of horns, thirty-point turns, and screeching brakes.

So Craig did exactly what you’d expect he’d do

He doubled down. And I don’t mean just a little. The backward parking remained and a new requirement was added. Beginning one Monday at 5 PM, only one row of cars was released at a time. It started the at the front of the lot (at least that part was fair considering they got there first) and went row by row. After one day of it union grievances began flooding in for all of the unpaid time people sat parked in their cars after they had clocked out.

That’s where I got tied up in the mess. And I don’t regret it one bit… because it was hilarious. At the time, I was making a series of safety videos for the operations team. With my manager’s permission, Craig sequestered my services to film the exodus. His intent was to dismiss the grievances, but it had exactly the opposite affect.

I perched myself on top of a tower overlooking the parking lot with enough time to capture the guards take their places. At quitting time, the herd rushed out in a flurry of middle fingers and foul language as Craig stood on a balcony just below me. I was too far up to be noticed, but even if anyone saw me I don’t think they cared. They all wanted to murder Craig. No one was shy about voicing that desire either.

In the end money won

Craig lost his grievances with the union. Apparently my two-hour video of cars waiting to leave a parking lot was not proof of fair treatment (go figure!?!?). The backing rule was never “officially” reversed, but it was never enforced again. Soon no one remembered. But safety took a huge nosedive in those final months of the construction phase. It was something the workforce had to do, not something they wanted to.

I’ve stated many times before that legal compliance and people safety are two distinctly different objectives. Craig was a perfect case study for that. Compliance is required… no one’s arguing that. But OSHA isn’t what keeps the average worker awake at night. Having a life is. Figure out what that life is about, invest some time in teaching them why safety will make it possible, and help them understand when risk is unacceptable. That’s how real safety works.

As an added bonus, far fewer people will want to punch you in the throat.

If you’re new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Jason. I’m a safety professional, podcast host, author, and world-renowned origami artist (that’s a lie). If you’re NOT new to this blog, go buy my book… it’s like this but multiplied by the power of unicorn tears. In any case, I hope you enjoy the content here. Please like, share, and join in the discussion as we all pursue Relentless Safety.

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I’ve Been Using My Mouse Wrong For A Year

OK, so, I’m an ergonomic nightmare

I type all of these blog posts (and my entire BOOK) with my tiny little Samsung laptop perched on my knees while I sit in my recliner. That may sound like I’m a typical American, but as an Ergonomist (a CPE no less) told me not long ago, “you’re way too broad to be typing on a tiny little keyboard.” Since she alerted me to that fact my body has been screaming at me to do better. It’s amazing what a little knowledge will do for body awareness (and shoulder pain).

At work, I was able to solve the problem pretty simply. I bought a nifty little split keyboard and purchased an Ergotron attachment for my desk without batting an eyelash. BUT…

At home, I still sit in my recliner every night with my laptop. I’ll be honest, that probably won’t change. So, tonight, I decided to fix what I could. Mainly because I can’t figure out how to put a split keyboard on my lap.

The dongle cuts into my leg

OK, so picture this. Some nights when I get sick of looking down at my screen, I put my knees up and squeeze my laptop (gently) between my legs. This raises the computer up just slightly. When I do it, the USB receiver I have plugged into my laptop to connect my mouse digs into my left leg right above my knee.

Since I have a high tolerance for pain, I endure the hardship (I know, cry me a river). That is to say, I did endure the hardship. Until tonight… when I finally decided to connect the mouse via Bluetooth (which is why I bought the damn thing in the first place).

So, I unplugged the dongle and went to the Bluetooth menu using my touch pad. Inadvertently, I grabbed the (unplugged) mouse and began clicking through the connection process. It took me a second to realize the stupid thing was already f^(#!%@ connected!. Apparently I had done the setup when I first got it, but had connected the receiver out of habit.

Habits are hard to break

I might be old school, but this mouse is the first Bluetooth mouse I’ve ever had. I don’t know when or what prompted me to plug in the receiver, but I have a suspicion (as in I kinda remember doing it) that I did it after the wireless function was in operation.

There are so many ways to learn from this instance, but I want to hone in on one in particular. It occurred to me that my dongle habit (that makes me chuckle) is learned behavior. Since the olden days when corded equipment became obsolete, every wireless device I’ve owned had one. Unfortunately, so did my Bluetooth model, so the habit took precedence.

For me the lesson drifted from there into the workplace (because I love the constant anxiety of critical thinking…). There is a ton of innovation every day made in just about every field. We work to engineer out a problem, only to leave the old “solution” readily available. Look at it like this, if the dongle had been a safety hazard that needed to be done away with (it’s not, but you get my point), why would the manufacturer keep including them with units that use better technology? But we do that all the time with other problems.

If there hadn’t been a receiver with my mouse, I would have spent at least one less year of my life with a frequent divot in my leg just above my knee. That’s something to think about next time you set out to solve a problem.

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Safety Positive: Good Stuffs Vol 2

If you’re not learning, you’re dead

Before I started writing this blog, I spent months of sleepless nights writing A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit. What was initially a rant about all of the things I saw wrong with the safety world turned into a journey of self-discovery. I knew that if all I had to offer was gripe about how wrong everything was, it wouldn’t be useful. So, I did my best to bring something of value into the world. When it was done I knew it was worth sharing, but it terrified me.

I thought the ideas would blacklist me. Not because they were radical, but because they didn’t conform. It was a lonely time. In retrospect it was foolhardy, and maybe even a little arrogant to think no one else shared my desire to make this profession better, but that’s where I was. Then the Relentless Safety journey began and I realized there are other voices out there. I also realized that what I had to say was worth saying.

In the words of my editor: “I can’t believe you say some of the things you say. But somebody needs to.”

That’s what this series is about. I’m not going to stop commenting on the state of the profession or challenging us to do better, but I’m not the only one doing it. There are others dedicated to the new view in safety. I want to use what little influence I have to give them the praise they deserve.

The traditional “Safety Man” is a thing of the past. Here’s to those that are actually making workplaces safer.

This week: RedBeard

Nathan Braymen is the founder of isitrecordable.com (wish I had thought of that BTW) and a corporate safety manager who just gets it. He understands that not everyone will see eye to eye, but has a great message about bridging those gaps. He also sees safety practically and says it like it is. Check out his YouTube channel and learn some good stuffs for yourself.

(He’s also a fellow vet, so thanks for your service Nathan!)

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Toddler Safety Shortcuts… And Chef Knives

Turn away if you’re not a fan of dark humor

Call me a terrible parent if you want, but I nicknamed my daughter “Lil Stabby” when she was two years old. She hates it. Though she’s got maniacal laughter down to a science, the name actually came from a specific event. It’s not necessarily indicative of her personality (although the jury’s still out).

Though I don’t usually do disclaimers, let me just say she’s actually one of the most kind-hearted humans I’ve been graced to know. The only one who might edge her out in that regard is her older brother. But only because he would sell the dog (and not ask permission first) if it meant donating the money to help someone out. The girl wouldn’t part that easily with her puppy.

She was a very early walker. I attribute that to her intense competitive nature. Since her brother was three years old when she came along, she knew nothing other than the reality that big people stand and use their feet to move around. As an infant, her eyes glowed with rage every time she watched someone do it while she rolled around on the floor. In retaliation she would scream, red-faced and vibrate back and forth in an effort to will herself onto her feet. The result was that she never even crawled. She could just walk one day.

The tenacity continued

Despite the walking, she wasn’t much of a talker. In fact some of my early memories of her first sentences were moments like the time she couldn’t find all of the parts to her favorite cup. She came running out of our small, townhouse kitchen and gawked at me with half of a pink water vessel.

“SHIT,” she exclaimed. “My wid [lid] is gone!” I rolled in laughter at that one because I knew it wasn’t my fault. My favorite swear word starts with “F.”

Then came the nickname

Back then our kitchen was completely cut off from the living room. Since she was the second child, we had relaxed the parental oversight (admit it, you did too if you have more than one). We had taken a page from my mom’s playbook and allowed both of the kids to get into a few unlocked bottom cabinets and play with the Tupperware as they saw fit. It’s a noisy proposition, but if you turn up the volume of the TV, you can usually drown it out and squeak in an episode of Game of Thrones while they’re occupied.

Due to that fact, the noise coming from the kitchen one particular Saturday wasn’t alarming (all parents know that silence is what is actually alarming). I heard some things slam, some others hit the floor, and then I heard… nothing. My ears perked but there were no sounds of pain.

“Daddy!” My eyes slowly drifted from whatever super-important cable show had captured my attention. I turned my head to witness a live-version, female Chucky doll with a 10″ chef’s knife in her hand. She raised it up like Norman Bates in Psycho.

“Heee heeeh ehehehehh,” she cackled. Then it was my turn to say SHIT. I rushed over, grabbed the knife, and then saw her marvelous feat of engineering.

The two year old built FREAKING stairs!

Our knife block had been carefully placed at the furthest corner of the kitchen counter. It was nearly out of reach of my wife (she’s even shorter than me), let alone the kids. But my daughter had desired the shiny, pointy thing so much that she had pulled three drawers out into a pyramid, climbed said pyramid, and retrieved the murder weapon.

To be fair, she didn’t recognize the risk she was dealing with. She sure as hell does now, but that’s not the point. The point is she wanted the shiny thing and she figured out how to make that happen.

I’ll keep this one simple

How often do you imagine that completing work is the “shiny thing” people are after? Everyone has different motivation for getting that work done, but the shiny is the goal. When obstacles are in our way, we build steps around them to get to the prize. Any (or all) of those steps could present risk that the worker isn’t aware of, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about safety. Only that they’re unaware of what is and what isn’t.

The only exception to that I’ve ever seen is if the task that worker is trying to complete is actually to “stabby stabby” someone with a butcher knife (or anything else malicious, but that’s not the norm). In my daughter’s case, we may never know if that was the goal.

So next time you see someone do something really stupid and “risky,” figure out what they’re after. I’m betting it will most likely be successful completion of a task (even if that’s not the result). We need to stop judging the actions of our workers and start looking at the conditions that influenced them. Despite our predisposition to think the worst of people, not everyone is a sociopath with no regard for themselves or others. Most are trying to make an honest living working as hard as they can. Even if they have to build steps into the process that weren’t meant to be there.

If you’re new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Jason. I’m a safety professional, podcast host, author, and world-renowned origami artist (that’s a lie). If you’re NOT new to this blog, go buy my book… it’s like this but multiplied by the power of unicorn tears. In any case, I hope you enjoy the content here. Please like, share, and join in the discussion as we all pursue Relentless Safety.

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Safety Is Uncertain

Everything is actually

In late 2016 I had just passed all of the lab work required to obtain a new life insurance policy. My numbers were perfect and I was in great shape. I was less than a year past my unsatisfying attempt at competitive bodybuilding. And while I had given up on that dream, I hadn’t given up on the training and discipline of the craft.

On November 16th, I woke up early feeling queasy. It wasn’t terrible, but I wasn’t able to go back to sleep. So I went to work. By 9 AM my stomach was cramping so bad I knew something was wrong, so I told my boss I was heading to the doctor. On the way I called my wife and told her I thought I had a kidney stone (not that I know what that’s like, I still haven’t had one). She suggested that I go to an ER just in case I needed some kind of test a quick-care couldn’t offer.

The next 36 hours made me seriously question the cost of medical school

When I got to the ER, the triage nurse took my blood pressure and it was sky high. She set off all the alarms and immediately called in the doctor (by immediately, I mean an hour or so later). When he walked in I was curled into a ball trying to hold my insides in.

“Alright, Mr. Maldonado, lets get this prostate exam done,” he stretched a pair of exam gloves on as he completed that statement nonchalantly.

“What?” I rolled over and glared at him.

“Need to rule everything out,” he replied.

“Seriously? For stomach pain?” He didn’t flinch. “Are you joking?” He wasn’t…

This is a long story, so I’ll just hit the high notes

After that first unsuccessful “exam,” they hooked me up to an EKG (also not a freaking stomach test!). If you were in that room at the time, you would have thought the world was imploding. Apparently I was in what’s called Atrial Fibrillation (or AFib).

“We’re going to have to admit you, Mr. Maldonado,” my nurse explained. “If you’re in AFib longer than 24 hours, you’ll be at extreme risk for a stroke.”

I’ll skip the witty banter that occurred after that statement, but the long and short of it was that they could “shock” my heart back into normal rhythm. The only problem was that the ER (it was a standalone facility) didn’t have the equipment to do it.

So I got a super-fun $50k ride in an ambulance

When I arrived, the stomach cramps hadn’t subsided at all. The staff at the hospital hadn’t even gotten the message that I had come in for that. When I told my intake nurse, I was informed that they couldn’t give me anything for that pain because the cardiologist needed to evaluate my AFib first. As it turned out, I had a quite a while to ponder my situation and realized I had felt this way a handful of times before.

At 7 PM (almost twelve hours since I’d begun feeling off), I was finally visited by the first cardiologist. My wife and kids had arrived shortly before that and I was doing my best not to alarm the tiny humans. The pain was making it difficult, though, and I didn’t need to tell my wife out-loud that I was agitated. The doctor did not help. She had a thick Eastern-European accent and zero bedside manner.

“You’re a very big boy,” she said without introducing herself. “You’re not doing anything silly like creatine, are you?” I glared at her without answering that ridiculous question so she continued. “What’s wrong with you, then?”

I explained the whole sequence of events and then told her about my revelation that I had felt this way before.

“It’s happened a few times. I didn’t know what it was, but every time it’s happened I went to sleep and woke up the next morning feeling normal,” I explained.

“That’s not possible,” she dismissed my evaluation and then dismissed me, looking up at my wife. “Is there anything you would like to tell me? Sometimes they forget.” The doctor pointed at me as she made that statement.

Umm… Nurse, that’s “normal,” isn’t it?

For the next seven hours I battled back and forth with the hospital staff about my condition. I insisted that it was going to go away on it’s own, they insisted that it wouldn’t. From there the argument transitioned into my endless requests to fix the AFib and their insistence that they needed to “run some tests first.”

Around 3 AM I finally got some medicine for the stomach pain and drifted off into sorta-sleep. Then I felt the snap. At 4 AM on the nose I was jolted awake by a new feeling. I was exhausted, still a bit queasy, but… better. I looked up at my heart monitor and I could no longer feel the palpitations. As I squinted through the medication haze I squeezed the call button. A few seconds later the nurse walked in.

“That’s normal, isn’t it?” I asked as she walked up to my bed. “I guess you can’t do your tests now.”

They never figured it out

I was stuck in that bed for another 24 hours before I was released. And only then because I threatened to sue them for malpractice if they didn’t let me out. It felt like prison. But I can understand why they didn’t want to let me out. No one likes not knowing.

There was no medical reason for my being there. None of the numerous tests (there was a CT and many other in addition to the prostate exam) showed anything abnormal. Other than the fact that I felt like I was dying, I was normal.

As much as I despised the staff who “treated” me (still do actually) over those 36 hours, I understand their frustration. It’s one shared by every safety professional out there.

We’re not the gods we wish we were

We can’t control everything because we don’t understand everything. That’s a sobering reality. And it’s especially hard to cope with when something bad happens. But it doesn’t mean we stop trying. It just means we have to accept that all risk cannot be removed. The best we can work toward is creating a system that reduces those risk’s impact on people rather than believing the false dogma that we somehow have the power to eliminate all accidents. Anyone who believes that is possible is lying to themselves or (even worse) to everyone else.

As I was thinking about that event yesterday, it occurred to me that it changed my whole perspective. Prior to that day life seemed like a foregone conclusion. Now I don’t see a future. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making a veiled cry for help with that statement. I just realize that there’s no grantee I’ll grow old and get to see my kids experience life. No one else get’s that certainty either. With that realization, it becomes all the more important to manage the risks we deal with on a daily basis. When you do, though, just remember you’re human. You’re not going to manage (or even see) them all.

If you’re new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Jason. I’m a safety professional, podcast host, author, and world-renowned origami artist (that’s a lie). If you’re NOT new to this blog, go buy my book… it’s like this but multiplied by the power of unicorn tears. In any case, I hope you enjoy the content here. Please like, share, and join in the discussion as we all pursue Relentless Safety.

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Don’t Pass On The Right

It happens every night

On my way home from work, getting to my neighborhood requires turning left from a main highway. Every night as I signal my turn, pull to the middle of the lane, and slow down, the car behind me rushes past on the right. It’s a maneuver that saves maybe 0.02 seconds of commute time (we live in a small town, so “traffic” isn’t really a hindrance).

Every time it happens, I fight the urge to veer back into the middle of the road to thwart the impatient driver behind me. I’ve been hit from behind before, though, and I don’t want to go back to physical rehab for something stupid. So, I stay put and sigh at the ignorance.

What does safe actually mean?

I asked that question a few weeks ago and was met with the expected response: “going home the same way you came to work.” It’s the stock, standard answer I expected. My response? I Pulled out my phone.

Recently, my wife signed me up for one of those “snapshot” apps that monitors your driving to better determine what your auto insurance rate should be.

That shit is annoying by the way.

But, it served a pretty good purpose on the day of my class. In response to my student’s answer, I read him my stats.

“I looked at my phone three times, accelerated from a stop too fast twice, and braked too hard once,” I said. “But I made it to work without an accident. Was I driving safe?”

His blank stare answered my question

Obviously, I have some improvement to make as a driver. Likewise, our workers have opportunities to improve every day. It’s up to us to help them identify those issues and teach them how to get better. Outcomes don’t necessarily define our performance. That is a hard thing to come to grips with in today’s results-driven society.

But remember, just because you’re lucky today doesn’t mean you’re good for tomorrow.

So next time you consider passing on the right, imagine what would happen if the driver in front realized they had signaled the wrong turn and swerved back into the lane. Would your ability to adjust to that change indicate skill, or just dumb luck? I think that’s something worth considering.

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Safety Positive

And now for something a little different…

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about the pitfalls and shortcomings of traditional safety. While that’s still a huge beast to tackle, this past week has given me pause to think about some of the good things we do.

In my last post, I made the point that we could make a whole lot more progress if we focused on the things we strive for rather than the things we don’t want. With that in mind, I’m going to take my own advice and use this series (The Good Stuffs) to highlight some people who are doing big things in the safety community.

First up…

Last week the ASSP announced their first Cohort of online community influencers. Jason Lucas, creator of the #SocialMediaSafetyMinute, was one of the 22 selected. When you have some spare time, take a look at Jason’s LinkedIn content. He’s done a great job of breaking down the basics that we all tend to overlook from time to time.

It’s time to get louder

This week in my subscriber email newsletter, I covered the idea that there are a lot of great voices out there in the safety community. While I believe that to be true, I also think the good voices get drowned out by the old guard.

If you or someone you know is making waves in the safety world email me and let me know. I’d love to give them any bandwidth I can.

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