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Be Careful Not to Fall Down on Safety

Falling down in safety is usually considered one of the leading causes of injury on jobs.  In a big-box retailer falling down from tripping or slipping on the floor is a leading cause of injury.  On construction sites people fall through holes in the floor, fall from  heights, and stumble and hit the ground.  Similarly speaking, management can fall down in safety  – and this too can lead to injuries.

To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping ~ Chinese Proverb

In more than 23 years of advising and almost 40 years of observing safety practices of an industrialized nation, I can tell you that overall, we fall forward, get up and do it again.  In high school one of my shop classes was on construction where we built storage buildings using modern construction practices (2 x 4s or 2 x 6s on 16” centers).  I learned how to construct a pole barn, how to use post and beam construction, mix concrete, and lay blocks.  Over the years, I can safely say that these skills have served me in different ways.  But in those high school days of long ago, we didn’t really talk about safety.  The best safety advice was, “Be carful.”  In 1977 I entered the workforce and was given my first hard hat.

Since that time, construction and industrial safety has come a long way by failing forward with every event.  People got hurt or a fatality occurred which led us to use lagging indicators and root cause analysis.  Today we attempt to create a workplace that is safe and conduct inspections, observations, and job hazard analysis to prevent the event.  Still we fail from time to time to hit the seemingly impossible zero-injury target.  When we do fail, we fail forward and investigate to find the root cause so that we prevent the injury from repeating itself.  Safety should be a continual improvement cycle.  If management doesn’t continue to improve at creating a safe work environment we will begin to fall backwards and not forward.

Failures will take place.  The human condition is such that when we are interacting with a machine that was creating by another human being failures will occur.  The journey to a safe workplace is never going to be finished.  If management fails to take the time to openly discuss the state of their safety culture and what needs to happen to improve, the opportunity for failure is increased.

In the coming 12 months we will all read about events that when reviewed will astonish us that it happened.  We will say things like, “That would never happen in our organization” and that in itself is a failure.  The question must be, “Can that same or a similar event take place in our organization?”  We must take the time to have conversations about our current state of safety and what we would like to see in our future.

For several years, my work has been evolving.  Some of the best work I do is with clients who take the time and resources to have open discussions.  I am honored to work with several clients smart enough to know that it is important to spend time thinking about safety.  When I conduct facilitated safety discussions (now my most requested work) with my clients, they walk away satisfied that they are taking the time to look in the mirror and ask, “What’s next for safety improvement and what am I going to do to lead the charge?”  Now clients leave the meeting saying, “Let’s schedule the next session.”

Over the past 40 years we have seen vast improvements in safety practices and safety equipment.  Just like any civilization,  the industrial age is bound to repeating past failures if we don’t take a pause to think about where we were, where we are, and then where we are going.  If you are a manager or executive of an organization where you lead people, please commit to taking the time to stop and ask the question, “What can we do for the next 12 months to not fall down on safety?”

Be Safe!

Carl Potter

PS: Be sure to get your annual subscription to my 1st Thursday Educational Safety Report and Safety Video so you don’t miss out!  CLICK HERE


In the past 20 plus years I have envisioned a Safety Think Tank.  I am making this dream a reality in 2017.  The Safety Think Tank would be made up of no more than 20 individuals who have a passion for creating workplace environments where employees can come to work, produce quality products with efficiency and go home at the end of the day to their families uninjured.  In 2017 I will launch that vision and I am inviting you to join me and other passionate safety leaders in this quest.

May 3rd, 4th, and 5th, 2017 I will be conducting a Safety Think Tank in San Diego, CA.  If you are interested in participating in this event please email me at: so we can discuss the details and see if this is a fit for you.  I look forward to scheduling a 15-20 phone call with you.

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