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People Getting Hurt on the Job is Still a Problem

With all the support programs and smart people involved in the world of industrial safety you would think that people getting hurt on the job would not be a regular happening.  Certainly we have seen many reductions through improved methods, equipment, and tools, but injuries still occur.  So what is the answer?  Maybe it is better if we ask the right questions.  The following is from a modern day philosopher:

To solve any problem, here are three questions to ask yourself: First, what could I do? Second, what could I read? And third, who could I ask? ~ Jim Rohn

  • What could I do?
  • What could I read?
  • Who could I ask?

So what if we apply this thought to preventing workplace injuries?  Well, first we can ask the question, What could I do?

I am continually amazed at the number of people who make safety someone else’s responsibility.  Someone will walk right past a trip or slip hazard and leave it for someone else to “do something about.”  A co-worker is observed not wearing a required piece of safety equipment and the observer might say, “Someday they are going to get hurt” and keep right on going without a word.  My favorite is the person who thinks the safety rule or process does apply to them, only the others who really need it.  Consider the person who says, “I think the rule says…” because they never have read the rules.

The second question, “what can I read” means that we might find our information if we read, study, and apply the safety rules that are in place.  People will jump on a new piece of equipment without reading the operator’s manual even when there is a sticker on the dash that states, “Please read the operator’s manual before operating this equipment.”  They fail to read the sticker and the book.  For some reason everyone considers themselves a safe person without reading the information that has been researched and proven.  Makes me think I wasted money going to college and becoming a CSP (Certified Safety Professional).  The saddest case is the injured person who failed to ask.

The third question is “who can I ask.” For some reason we all tend to think it is a sign of weakness to ask someone who might know the answer to our questions.  It has taken me a while to get over this one.  (My wife tells me that research has shown that men don’t seem to want to ask for instructions!) A few years ago I was getting ready to fly myself back home after a week of conducting my Hazard Recognition and Control Workshop at a plant.  When I got to the airport the wind was blowing 34 knots (40 mph) directly across the runway.  Instead of relying on my 1600 plus hours of flight time I called my instructor, Larry, who claims to have flown with the Wright Brothers (He is joking – he is an old pilot, but not that old!).  He said, “I’m glad you called me; this is not a problem and can be a great opportunity to stretch your ability.”  Then Larry proceeded to tell me how to take off in that kind of wind, what to expect, and what not to do.  Before hanging up, he said, “Call me when you get back home.”

I do try to practice what I preach about safety.  What could I do?  I wasn’t sure.  What could I read? I double-checked my pilot operating handbook and it said landing was safe in a maximum crosswind of 15 knots.  Take off was not mentioned.  Since I really could not get the answer from the book.  Who could I call? I called Larry.  In the end I had a great experience and was able to safely take off.  In fact an instructor and student in the next smaller model plane than mine took off ahead of me.  As they took off I noticed that they used the same technique Larry coached me on.  When I got home, I called Larry and he debriefed me on the experience.  Now, as a flight instructor I am able to help others in high cross wind takeoff.

Improving your company’s safety culture begins with you making it a practice to ask these three simple questions.  Have the courage to look like you don’t have all the answers, because you don’t.  Preventing every workplace injury is my goal and I hope you will join me in this effort so that everyone can go home to their families every day without injury.

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Carl Potter is the founder of The Safety Institute, an organization made up of safety experts of various backgrounds who help clients create workplaces where it is difficult to get hurt.  In 1977 Carl began collecting his experience working for one of the largest electric utilities in the United States.  In 1993 he started his own company and shares his experience through safety presentations and programs across the country.  For the past 6 years he has been delivering his: Hazard Recognition and Control Workshop . Carl influences people at all level of organization to make safety a priority so everyone can go home every day without injury through his blog site: www.safetytopics.com .  You can reach Carl at 800-259-6209 or by emailing him at carl@safetyinstitute.com .

Pictured is the author Carl Potter with Dan Turner, both members of the USCG Auxiliary 8th Western Rivers.  Carl is a Flight Examiner and has just completed a flight with Dan so he can use his airplane to save lives.

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