Safety Photo June 2013

It kills me when people proclaim to be safety conscious and yet act carelessly. You cannot see it, but the back of this guys shirt says Safety Leader. When I stopped to inquire if he knew what he was doing was wrong and sending a poor message, he had the audacity to ask if I was just going to lecture him or could he go back to work.

If your going to wear a shirt that makes a statement that you are a safety leader, you should lead by example and practice sound judgement.

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Safety Photo October 2012

Exits and doorways: we all understand the need to keep exits and doorways free of obstacles in the event of an emergency. However, I wanted to bring this photo to attention given that I have started to see snow in my state. When the snow and ice build up on walkways and stairs what do we do to control the slip/trip/fall hazards? Often times companies will salt or put sand down to help, but are we just trading one problem for another? What is the process to clean up the sand or salt once the snow is gone or melts? Once the walkways or stairs are dry and free of ice/snow the debris left from the salt/sand can cause a slip/trip/fall just as easily. Keep this in mind when you are looking to correct a hazard; will the solution cause another hazard once the immediate one is corrected?

The Consumate Safety Professional

What is a safety professional? Do we have a code of honor or professional conduct we abide by?

How many of you would stop and talk to a complete stranger because he was standing on the top two steps of a ladder? I did (see photo below). I did not yell, I did not raise my voice, I did not talk down to him, I simply stated that I was a safety professional and I noticed he was putting himself at risk and I did not want to see him get hurt. I asked him if he knew what he was doing wrong and he responded with a five minute conversation about OSHA and safety. He knew he was putting himself at risk, but he was just trying to get the job done. I then proceeded to ask him if he had a bigger ladder he could use and he said he did have one on his truck and that he would go and get it. He in fact did have one available for use and he got it and continued his work. Now he is safe and able to perform his duties without fear of harm (or at least less chance of injury). He even thanked me for pointing out his mistake and appreciated the fact that I said something.

The thing is if I had not intervened and something happened, would I be at fault? Would I have violated my oath as a safety professional involved and active in the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE)? I know I would not be able to look at myself and say I am a safety professional if that happened. Sometimes people are not trained in the proper way to work safely, other times they are just focused on their job and not paying attention. I believe that it is our job as safety professionals to step up and make a difference where we can and help to educate those who are not being given the opportunity to succeed and stay safe by their employers.

What would you do?

Addressing Safety Behavior vs. Compliance

It has been well debated over the years; how does a safety professional improve safety performance within the organization. Many safety professionals seek to maintain compliance with regulatory standards or local codes, but I think it goes deeper than that. To truly impact the safety performance of a company, special consideration needs to be placed on improving behavioral concepts and communication.

The way I approach safety is to take a look at employee motivation, job task performance and management commitment and style. If you can get the management and employee to make their behavior safety oriented then compliance becomes an added benefit not something to stress over.

One of the biggest mistakes I see within organizations is management’s lack of enforcement of the rules or expectations. For example:
A supervisor is walking a construction project. The project requirements state that safety glasses must be worn while in the construction area. The supervisor walks by three of his workers not wearing their safety glasses and does not say anything to them about it (note: here is where the behavior change comes into play). The supervisor continues on his way and the employees are now left with the impression that it is acceptable behavior to disregard the provision to wear safety glasses.

Think about that scenario and if the supervisor had stopped and said something. It is all about behavioral changes for all levels within the organization, not just the front line workers.