Safety is Just a Part of… LIFE?

Safety is Just a Part of… LIFE?

The picture will make sense once you listen

In safety it’s so easy to get bogged down with bueurocracy and red tape. It’s such a common pitfall that we often loose our way (everyone’s guilty) and start looking for what’s wrong with people. We focus on the “stupid” things people do. We harp on “carelessness” and berate “unsafe behavior.”

Here’s the thing, though. Wouldn’t the world (and humanity) look a little different if we tried to see things through someone else’s point of view? Not just saying it, but truly understanding.

I have a feeling we would “manage” safety a lot differently if we did.

P.S. The podcast episode below is a recorded version of THIS POST. It really takes on a new life when “Lil Stabby” herself takes the mic.

P.P.S. I hope you can hear the sarcasm in my quotation marks.

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Relentless Safety Live!

At the time of the recording anyway.

Who doesn’t love a good, well performed audio book?

I have to admit, recording these blog posts gives them new life for me. Check out my latest audio #safetysnakebite and let me know what you think.

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 Isn’t Good (at) Business

Thanks to Dave Collins for this pic

But we’re really good at pointing at things…

You haven’t lived until you have a conversation like they one I’m about to share with you. To set the mood, let me take you back to 2008…

The Black Eyed Peas just told you that tonight’s gonna be a good night. You just texted your girlfriend from your Motorola Razr about the Spaghetti Cat bit you watched on The Soup last night. Then, as you set aside thoughts of redesigning your MySpace page, your boss walks over and gives you the news. Today is going to suck regardless of how tonight turns out.

The boss just informed you that your assignment for the day is to walk the contractor safety reps around a 2-million square foot construction site to show them safety hazards. More specifically, electrical ones.

This particular site had been deluged by unexpected monsoon weather and more than a few things were under water. As it happened, one of those “few” things just so happened to be… the entire bottom floor and basement of the facility. The GC on that job had bet on their expectations of good weather and begun finishing interiors before the building had a roof. They had lost in a MAJOR way. To say there was tension in the air would be… accurate.

And THEN… Safety arrived to save the day… point at extension cords

Some very concerned administrative folks who’d been riding along that morning on the Project Manager’s windshield tour of the damage had informed us that there were… wait for it… Extension cords sitting in water.

Now, I’m going to make light of this hazard for the rest of this post. I’m not going to say it wasn’t a real hazard, but seriously… bigger fish. If you’re not comfortable with that, I suggest you go listen to Episode 100 of the Drinkin’ Bros Podcast to find out what uncomfortable really feels like.

In general, the idea of extension cords being immersed in water, though not something I would advise, does not rank incredibly high on my pucker meter. I’m sure there will be more than a few who disagree with that, and that’s fine. You being wrong doesn’t change the message of this little story.

The issue in this story doesn’t have as much to do with the magnitude of the hazard as it does the reasoning for which the hazard needed to be removed. That reason, as you might guess, was “because OSHA said.” To the contractors who were already dealing with the water crisis in other ways that only meant diverting time and resources to something that just wasn’t the issue of the day. Safety hadn’t changed that opinion based on the four letter “O” word.

So, I spent the rest of that day (minus the 25 minute lunch break I took to run home and get dry pants), trudging through nearly foot-high water pointing at every extension cord covered by H2O. Oh, and don’t think I forgot about that little “conversation” I mentioned at the beginning. It went like this (hundreds of times that day):

Me (pointing at a submerged extension cord): That one.

Contractor: Why?

Me: Seriously?

Contractor: Yeah.

Me: IT. IS. UNDER. WATER.

Business… we’re seriously not good at it

Ok, that’s a broad generalization, but I’m standing by it. Because even the best among us… the Safety Pro who can sell safety based on an iron-clad ROI. That guy. Even he has missed one key ingredient at least once. We all have.

We’re all guilty of pulling safety out of the work process at least once. How many administrative processes have we thrown in people’s faces “just to ensure” they do the “safety” step? How many unnecessary forms have we created and required without knowing how the work works? Which revision of the site safety manual are you currently updating to distribute to the workforce along with a sign-off sheet they have to sign for acknowledgement?

Now ask yourself two questions: How many of those things made someone safer? & How much more effective might those endeavors have been if you could show your organization how to accomplish safety without impeding their work? Think about what that ROI would look like with that little detail included.

In the case of the watery extension cord saga, the contractor was pretty well justified in considering the wet cords a risk worth taking. According to Safety the only thing at stake was the remote possibility someone would get shocked and the even remoter possibility that OSHA would magically appear and unleash the fury at that very moment.

But what if we had helped them with their problem in exchange for some help with ours? Better still, what if we had shown them that their work could be done more safely and efficiently if they corrected the hazard?

How do we get better?

Think about it like this. Have you ever seen an extension cord explode, electrocute a puppy, burn down a building, or turn an average Joe into a super villain because it got wet? I haven’t. And I’ve seen a shit-ton of them (see above). Does that mean they’re not hazardous? Of course not. But it’s not one of the risks that makes me loose sleep. I doubt someone who’s job isn’t SAFETY even thinks about it. If they do, it’s highly likely they consider it a costly nuisance.

So here’s the challenge: If your job requires you to convince someone to do something they think will cost them [anything], you need to find a better way to persuade than telling them they might (in some non-quantified way) experience some level of undesired consequences up to and including death or termination (whichever comes first). Rather than adding roadblocks to the work, find a way to add value. That’s what I think every time I see an extension cord.

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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Stop Sitting Around Watching Superhero Shows, Start Doing Better Safety

What does that even mean? Well… truth be told, my son AJ helped me out with the title of this post. It’s actually been sitting in my “to be written” file since October 19th. But now’s the time.

Since around that time in October, I’ve been taking a really hard look at everything I want to do on this blog and my other social media outlets.

The one constant has been to continue trying to question status quo and make work safer. Let’s be honest, we’re not where we should be. But there are a TON of great ideas right now. They just need a voice… a platform.

That’s the part I’m most excited about…

Remember that Safety Justice League thing I posted about a few months ago? Well, if you don’t, I don’t blame you. Every time we blink these day’s there’s lifetimes to miss. But I hope you don’t miss out on this.

ON MARCH 4th, SAFETY JUSTICE LEAGUE BECOMES THE PLATFORM

Join us…

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Imaginary Safety Unicorns & Rainbows

CHARLIE!!!!

I F#$@%*& Hate Cooling Towers…

Let me explain. I don’t actually hate the existence of cooling towers. I hate that they break down and fail sometimes. If you’ve read my book, you likely remember why I’m so sensitive about it (and if you haven’t read the book, you probably should). In the meantime, while you’re waiting for your new copy to arrive, I’ll get you up to speed.

Some people like to grandstand. It’s a part of life I should be used to by now. I’m not though. I still get riled up when it happens.

So here’s the scoop… Someone emailed me last week with a very accusatory tone (admit it, you know emails have tone). The message was from a VP who was very concerned about a NEAR MISS that had happened at a construction site at one of her facilities. Her contractors were very shook up about the nearly fatal event and wanted to know what was going to be done to ensure their safety at the site.

What actually happened was this: Some equipment failed and a some plastic fell off of a roof onto the ground at an unoccupied construction site where no one was working. Problem? Yes. Serious near miss? Not quite.

However…

What if there had been people there?!?! (Gasp). What if more equipment fails in the future and bigger chunks of material come careening down to earth in flaming fireballs? What if there was a bus full of children on their first school field trip who were there to see their first construction site? All of that could happen. Doesn’t that qualify it as a near miss?

NO!

None of it actually happened. A piece of equipment failed. That equipment needs to be addressed. Hopefully we’ll learn something about preventing damage like that in the future, but the incident was not more than it was.

Safety people need to stop making things up to sell the importance of safety. It makes us look foolish. Instead, we should be using events like the one I described to partner and work on solutions. No one needs to be imaginarily sliced into human confetti in order for action to take place.

Stick to reality. People will respect you more for doing that than they will if you pontificate about the likelihood about being struck by lightening indoors.

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I Know Everything About Safety

Don’t you?

That’s a ridiculous statement, obviously. But, I’ve actually met people who would argue to the death that they know everything. I’m sure many of you have, too.

For example, I guy I knew once “grew” an Irish accent (a terrible one) every time he drank Jameson because he wanted to be Irish (unless I see 23andMe results stating otherwise I’m sticking with he most certainly wasn’t). This guy also claimed he was an ex-Special Forces Operator (trainee) who once ate a scorpion during a training exercise in order to avoid being caught. His training records and less-than-operator-status physique argued otherwise. But not everyone is pathological. Some people just… I don’t know.

I can’t really speculate as to why some people feel the need to overly embellish or seem all-knowing. Maybe it’s pride, maybe it’s insecurity, maybe it’s peer pressure. I don’t know. I just know it’s wrong. People see through BS. In safety, too much of it will turn people off to the message.

Personally, I stop listening to the message and looking for the errors when I know people blow smoke. Even if they have something worth listening to I miss it. That’s a shame, and admittedly partially my fault. My point though, is that credibility is on the line every time we talk. Its been my experience that you can get a lot more of it by being honest about what you know. And what you don’t know.

I had some fun with this one

This past weekend I shot my second “Safety Snake Bite” video for safeopedia.com. Check it out below or on their YouTube channel. Give it a watch and let me know what you think. And if you’re interested in reading the original account of when this took place (I really didn’t make it up), check out this post: https://relentlesssafety.com/you-call-that-safety-training/

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

The video was a lot of fun, but I think the topic deserves even more attention. I talk with other professionals, read, research, and ponder safety just as much (if not more than) as anyone. This topic didn’t so much pop into my head as it has been sitting there waiting for years. It simply amazes me that there are so many who would rather wing-it than learn it. That’s a disservice for more than one reason:

  • As previously mentioned, people know when you’re full of it.
    • I once sat in a meeting in which a particular type of consulting was being proposed for a company. One of the participants chimed in and said “I’ve dealt with these types 8 specific times in my career. One was great, two were awful, and the other four were just so-so.” Anyone with basic math skills could tell he was making up his example. I don’t remember anything else he said and would wager no one else does either.
  • False information perpetuates itself.
    • Anyone who’s worked in the safety field knows it’s hard enough to get the right message to stick. Every time one of us makes up a rule or gives out incorrect guidance, it plants a seed that may grow into a mess people have to wade through on their way to safe work.
  • We owe people good information.
    • In theory, regardless of who the recipient is, the information a safety professional shares is going to be used to aid in safely completing work. If our guidance is faulty, so too might be the work plan.

If you’ve never thought about your credibility, maybe it’s time to consider what you say. Everyone will be incorrect at times, and that’s fine. Learning and growing should be our focus though. People who get stuck thinking there’s only one way to things have a hard time doing that.

On a side note, if you can do killer accents when you drink hit me up. I’m love hearing cool new stories. Maybe we can chat over a nice dried scorpion (affiliate link):

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The (Mostly) Silent World

On second thought, it’s a musical…

I just have no idea what everyone else’s music sounds like. The thought occurred to me as I sit here waiting for a delayed flight to New Orleans to attend the annual ASSP National conference. My Safety Technician and I have been sitting around for the past few hours. She’s watching Netflix, and I tried napping but I woke myself up snoring because I got startled (I don’t snore, my wife lies).

So now I’m here with earbuds stuffed into my ears. They still don’t drown out the woman across from me who is expelling her lungs and various bits of bodily fluid from her mouth and nostrils. There’s a louder woman behind me cackling, but potentially contagious bodily fluids heighten my awareness. Also, someone near me is eating A LOT of garlic. But thanks to the musical stylings of Taylor Swift (don’t judge, everyone likes her) those sounds are tolerable.

No one looks up

I know what you’re thinking. I’m going to write some predictable safety diatribe about how technology is ruining our culture and making us unsafe. Wrong. It’s a huge part of our world that’s only going to get more invasive. We need to learn to use it.

I’m just talking about what I see in places like airports. Anywhere crowded really. Everyone is stuck in their three-foot world. We don’t look around and actually see what’s going on. And most people don’t hear it either. There are a million ways to take this conversation, but I’m just going to suggest you think about it for yourself.

The next time you’re out and about, pause, take a beat, raise your eyes above the level of your next two steps and take in the panoramic view. Then pull one earbud out (baby steps, right?) Not only will you see interesting stuff, you’ll have an awareness most don’t. Plus people say some incredibly funny stuff.

But the awareness is key. We could all stand to get better at it. That’s all for me for now. See you in New Orleans.

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