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Sacrifice Not Required, But…

Have you ever noticed that people like risky activities?  I have a good friend who has parachuted out of more planes than I have flown.  He assures me that it is a safe activity.  Another friend is a mountain climber and finds hanging off of a rock at more than 1,000 feet enjoyable.  Whatever the activity, most people will risk being injured and call it fun.  If we enjoy our work, should we be willing to risk injury or death?

Many times I have asked myself if it is worth the risk when flying commercial airlines or piloting my own plane to a client to speak or consult. If the answer is “no”, then I guess staying home and hiding in my closet might be the answer.  But if I hide in my closet, the risk is starving to death, losing my home, and to stop being part of the plan called living.  Risk is an inherit part of a full and fulfilling life.  Should we risk our lives on the job?

“No one should have to sacrifice their life for their livelihood, because a nation built on the dignity of work must provide safe working conditions for its people.”

Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez

When it comes to the workplace, risk is real but sacrifice is not required.  I spend my time working with clients to help them reduce risk so that people won’t get hurt.  In studying why people get hurt I find it interesting that in most cases the injury could have been avoided.  When asked, the injured person will say, “I didn’t see it as a risk.”  If asked, “Did you see the hazard?”  “No, I am around it every day.”  Nobody really thinks they will get hurt, just like I don’t think the airliner I am on or my own plane is going to crash.

Airline travel is safer than driving a car.  Conversely, flying a private airplane such as I do is as risky as riding a motorcycle.  In an airliner I trust that the pilots and airline are doing everything they can to prevent a crash and their safety record proves they are doing a good job.  In my flying I do everything I can to prevent a crash because I know it can happen.  The first thing to do is recognize the risk, then identify the hazards that lead to risk.  The result is, I’ve never had a plane crash.  The only time I’ve had an issue with equipment failure, I was prepared and brought the plan to a safe landing.

When we conduct our Hazard Recognition and Control Workshop, some of the pictures used include the participant’s workplace.  It is amazing how they minimize the risk in their minds by saying, “Oh that’s not a risk.  Sometimes after some discussion they admit that without certain controls in place the risk would be much greater in their work and to their lives.

I am reminded of the scene in the old movie, “Ghost Busters” when they crossed the energy streams and they realized that “life as we know it could cease to exist” - crossing the stream of energy was a serious hazard.  Much like the ghost busters, we see participants who will say, “I am going to pay closer attention to the rules in the future,” once they are educated in hazard recognition and the reasons for controls.

To reduce the risk of injury one must first recognize that hazards exist.  Once the person says, “Hey, that could hurt you (or kill you),” the mindset changes.  Suddenly what was a minimized risk in their mind becomes a higher risk.  Engineering, safety rules, procedures, and personal protective equipment become important.  Educate yourself, co-workers, and those who report to you of the risk in your workplace.  Be sure that they are well educated in how to “Be Safe” so that they can go home from work every day without injury.

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