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Making Work Safe and Agreeing to Disagree

Have you been to that safety meeting when argument ensues about how to make work safe?  One person or group of people say, “We have done it this way for years and nobody has got hurt!”  The other person or group says, “Yeah, but if we did it this way (or that) it would be safer!”  Then there are people who say (or think), “Does it really matter?”  At some point, we have to chose what will be done to complete work and agree to disagree.

Safety has always been a dynamic practice.  Elements of a job may start-out with a set of hazards and other hazards may emerge during the work process.  Over the years we may find that new technologies that improve operations may lead to an increase, or decrease, in hazards.  For this reason, everyone must understand that the workplace and worksites are dynamic by nature.  Nothing stays the same.

Frontline leaders who are assigned, plan, and execute tasks on a daily basis are motivated by completion and moving on to the next assignment.  Workers who are assigned to work for frontline leaders many times have their own way for making a worksite safe.  It is not unusual to find that the frontline leader has a lot less experience and knowledge than the worker.  This is when we might find that we have to agree to disagree, but how can we do it and have everyone feel like the assignment is safe?

Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.

 ~ Albert Schweitzer

Don’t start with the attitude of “I am right because I’m the boss!” or “I am right because I was doing this assignment before you were hired (or before you were born)!”  Consider that the other person might be right.  Bear in mind, many assignments can be done many ways.  When it comes to safety, we always want to work in a way that mitigates the risk to the lowest possible level.  Consider everyone’s viewpoint and apply the best mitigation strategy.

Whether you are a frontline leader or one of the rank and file performing the tasks that complete the assignment, commit to working with everyone.  The older I get the more I find that I can learn from others.  Work together to explore every hazard and the impact of not applying the best mitigation strategy.  Sometimes we have to agree to disagree if the goal is going to be met.  Remember, being right is not the goal of safety –  the goal is going home to your family at the end of the day uninjured.

Be Safe!

Carl Potter

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