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.