The nagging question this blog may never answer is why people like us are entertained by the thoughts of others (you’re reading the thoughts of another BTW, so don’t feel too bad that I generalized you… just make sure you enjoy it!). It occurred to me today just how absurd a time in history we’re currently living through. Little more than 20 years ago people would have laughed at the idea that anyone could (and should) post their personal thoughts and opinions online for the world to see. And not only that, but the world is actually interested… Crazy
I’m just as guilty of wasting hours absorbing all the brilliance of the internets as anyone. But I also have a hobby not many others share. Nothing weird (although there’s plenty out there if I ever develop any strange afflictions), I read comments and try to figure out what made the person on the other end of the keyboard spend the energy. I’d like to think that the more I learn about what motivates people to do what they do, the better chance I have at making an impact in real life. In safety.
Don't clap too loud, it's not as noble as it sounds
There is a fair amount of conflict rolling around in my head as I write this post. Two ideals that forever battle with each other in my mind as I try to decipher what makes people safer. The first is that I detest the perpetuation of the “safety fails” that constantly make their rounds around the net. I won’t get on that soapbox, but it’s a shame that our profession continues to try and show how great we are by belittling the stupidity of others.
But then… there’s the stupid shit safety people do… I’m not nearly as opposed to exploiting those fails.
A while back I was reading through some posts on a Facebook safety group. For my taste, this particular group is more a source for SMH and FML than it is for learning, but there’s usually at least a funny comment or two worth stopping by for. Someone in the group had asked for guidance regarding the use of gloves while operating a lathe. The question, to be honest, was a nice reprieve from the countless repetitions of “what study material should I use for…” Seriously people… Google.
What caught my eye was one of the first responses. I didn’t catch the name at first, just the reply. It said something along the lines of “I’ve always considered it common sense not to use gloves around rotating equipment.” Then I realized that I know the replier. In real life.
Safety has it's fair share of idiots too
So, here’s the thing. Had the person responding not triggered me by using the term I may not have even realized I knew him IRL. Idiots are reliable though. I won’t put the guy on blast and advertise his profile or anything overtly mean like that, but just think about him for a second. You’ve all met him. He’s the safety professional that starts with what “OSHA Says” instead of teaching people why and how to be safer. He feigns emotion to show you how much he “cares” about worker safety and quality of life. He’s also the first person to escort you out the door when you don’t have enough of that “common sense” to follow the rules. Never mind the fact that you were never trained or that the equipment wasn’t designed in a way that allows operation through blind obedience. He gets angry when you don’t follow his directions and accuses you of not caring enough. His is all common enough trope, but nothing about how the guy operates makes his case for “common sense.”
You don’t have to take my word for it either. Had I never met him in person I wouldn’t have believed someone as ignorant to his own lack of sound reasoning would be able to stand on a pedestal and profess to others about the “safe” way to do things. What’s that saying about glass houses? Lucky for you I did meet him, though.
One perfect example stemmed from a project he and I were both contributing to. The site was requesting guidance on shielding and guarding a new installation of hot process piping. In that particular audience, my recommendation (which cited relevant standards) was not embraced with open arms. I have to assume that’s because using my solution would have cost more money. I can’t allow myself to believe that my “colleague’s” recommendation was more compelling.
You want me to poke you where?
He reached his conclusion by assigning one of his children to an at-home, makeshift “science” experiment. You’re going to want to pay attention just in case you have problems spotting ideas you should not try at home without first loudly proclaiming that someone needs to hold your beer.
Rather than reading all of the countless resources, regulations, and case studies available regarding hot process piping and how to safely protect workers from it, our friend the safety “professional” decided that it would be better to take a meat thermometer (like the kind you would use to cook a brisket to perfect temp) and place it in his oven. He then waited until the probe heated up and had his kid poke him with it at escalating levels of thermal discomfort until he just couldn’t take it anymore. Once the glowing red meat probe was unbearable to the touch, the meat sack (I mean “safety professional”) made his judgement about just how hot was too hot.
God help us...
Most people can read between the lines and figure out what I’m getting at here. But, seeing as our friend Safety Brisket seemed to think his actions made some semblance of sense, I’d be remiss if I didn’t hammer the point home just a little.
Don’t be the guy who thinks everyone share’s the same common experiences. It makes you look all the more foolish when you go and decide to join the rest of humanity and do something dumb. Just work on learning and growing as much as you can while you’re still with it enough to realize that getting poked with a hot stick isn’t a good idea.