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Reminded me to follow my own advice might be a better description

Around the time my son turned two and my wife and I found out we were expecting another spawn, we began evaluating our expenses. The first thing to go was an easy target: overpriced cable TV. Aside from cost, the cut was also due in no small part to the transformative powers “Micky Mouse Clubhouse” (although I’m sure they call it something more sinister in hell) had on my son.

Scoff if you want, former Mouseketeers. You’ve been brainwashed. One day you’ll be called upon by the dark lord to do his bidding. It will probably have something to do with matching colors and shapes.

In the aftermath of the purge, we realized that kids are never quiet unless possessed by the demonic creations of Disney. So, we did what all reasonable parents do these days. We replaced our cable with Netflix and an Amazon Prime subscription. As it turned out, there are much worse things on TV than Mickey. And we have them all on-demand.

Mo couch, Mo problems

After our latest move, we considered reinstating the cable since our kids are older and more “responsible” now. That idea was a bust. Instead, we opted for a new TV and couch. Luckily we were able to get a great deal. I got the electric reclining feature I’d always wanted and my wife got (uggghhhh)… leather. Despite my doubts about sticking to the chair all the time, it’s actually the nicest couch we’ve owned. With one exception.

It eats remotes. The manufacturer apparently knew this and even installed a Velcro “stomach” release in the back. I’m pretty sure more Fruit Loops have fallen out of there than have ever entered my daughter’s mouth. Along with those treasures, one of the four (yes four) remotes we use on a daily basis typically finds it’s way to the couch’s backside. Someone then has to squeeze behind it and perform the couch colonic. Most times everything comes out nicely.

Then one day about three months ago, we lost the remote to our Amazon Fire Stick. It wasn’t expelled from the flap on either side of the couch. So, we broadened the search, thinking someone may have inadvertently taken it with him or her to the bathroom (not something I would ever do, though). After a day passed, we still held out hope. Then another passed. And another. My wife and I got over the anger and assumed it had fallen in the trash and been taken out. I was about to order a new one, when my son tried out the remote to our TV and found, surprisingly, that it controlled the fire stick. We were back in business.

Kinda…

Though “Smart TV” is a popular term these days, no one really raves about the intelligence of their remotes. The one for our Visio does indeed control all of the things connected to it, but not as intuitively as the manufacturers of those other units may have intended. For example, the Fire TV remote has a rewind button (that’s key). The Visio remote does not. That means that in order to rewind or go back to the last menu, we had to figure out through trial and error that the “back” button performs both of those functions.

That small nuisance alone was not enough to warrant buying a new Fire remote, so we suffered through it (1st-world problems, I know). All was well at first, but then strange things began happening. In particular, shows began to randomly rewind themselves. I should have also mentioned that the Visio remote doesn’t have a “play” button either. So, the first time “ghost rewind” happened, I had to scramble to figure out what to do.

One Saturday, my daughter asked me to watch her horse show with her. I obliged, found the episode she wanted and pressed “select” (play) on the Visio remote. Once she was situated with her blanket and five obligatory stuffed animals, I pushed recline on the couch. And… the show rewound itself. A light-bulb turned on so I crawled off the chair while the legs were still up. Clicking the light on my phone I looked carefully for the lost Fire remote… Nothing.

So, I sat back down, clicked “select” again, and resumed watching the show. My angle was off, though, so I tilted the chair back a little more… GHOST REWIND! That settled it. I knew then that the Fire remote wasn’t lost. It was stuck. But I COULD. NOT. FIND. IT! For weeks.

So, I stopped sitting on the couch

After realizing the couch had actually eaten the remote this time, I figured out that I was the only one heavy enough to make it do anything. My answer was to either sit on my recliner, or lay on the floor while watching TV. Because taking couches apart is hard… And mostly because I was being lazy. Plus I figured the battery would die someday.

In the end, the battery didn’t die. I sat on the couch one too many times, ghost rewound my shows in growing frustration, and finally got annoyed enough to do something about it. The remote had lodged itself into a perfectly camouflaged corner under the arm where one of the extendable joints of the leg rest was able to mash into the rewind button. The remote now bears a permanent scar from it’s time in exile:

Yes, I know my hands are tiny. Focus!

Back to the point: Remove the ghosts from the machine

Hopefully I haven’t lost anyone who was wondering what the takeaway from this overly-dramatized episode is. I’m sure both of my regular readers knew all along that there was some sort of punchline, so here it is: I knew there was a problem and chose to work around it anyway.

How often do your workers do the same?

How often do you tell them not to?

Or better still, have you ever told them to stop when something’s wrong with the system?

Do they even know how to identify what those issues might be?

I could go on with this line of questioning indefinitely. That’s not the point though. The point is that bad things don’t go away if we pretend they aren’t there. Even though my case study is pretty silly, my “work around it” mentality could have huge implications if allowed on a work site. What if my remote was a critical point of failure that could cause serious injury or death? Would your people speak up and refuse to work around that risk?

Let me put it another way. Have you given your people the expectation that unacceptable risk is… unacceptable?

Hi. I’m Jason. I’m the author of the book A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit from CRC Press. I’m excited to get to share it with you all and hope it will be as valuable a tool to you as it has been to me. There is no other safety book out there like it. That’s not me being arrogant and assuming you’ll love it. You might not. But at least we’ll be able to have a needed conversation about the change needed in the safety profession. It is available now! Email me at Jason@relentlesssafey.com

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