Maybe we’re going about this whole workplace safety thing all wrong. It may be time to make some changes at how we do and look at things to help bring home the point of safety. OSHA has decided to make changes they feel necessary by vastly raising the amounts on fines and also made some minor internal restructuring so they can begin prosecuting safety violators through the courts. These are both good steps but while OSHA provides us the structure to work within on providing a safe workplace to employees and the consequences, EVERYONE, from the worker on the floor to the CEO, must be involved and responsible for their safety on the job. Understanding that it’s your decision to follow the rules of the road and abide by them. So I thought why don’t we also look at some of the terminologies we use to describe safety issues and see what needs to be tweaked in order to stay current and correct.
When a worker is doing a job, let’s say on a roof, using proper fall protection gear, (that means wearing the harness and properly tethered and anchored) and they trip and fall, sustaining only minor injuries such as a few scrapes and bruises or a broken arm, along with a red face for not paying attention to their surroundings, it will still be referred to as an accident. However, if that worker on the roof, passes on and doesn’t bother to wear their fall protection gear, since “it’ll never happen to them”, and then “it happens to them” as they trip, stumble and fall off the roof, 25 feet on to concrete pavement, and die, lets not use the word accident to classify it but instead begin calling it what it is, a suicide. After all, it wasn’t an accident as they clearly refused to do the right thing and wear the proper gear. They clearly understood the consequences.
We can do the same thing with Lock Out Tag Out and machine guards. If a worker doesn’t do LOTO before they begin to clear a jam, do repairs or maintenance on a piece of machinery or operates a machine without guarding in place and they lose a finger, arm or leg, we will no longer refer to it as an amputation. Instead, we’ll call it self mutilation. Self-mutilation would also include deafness from not wearing hearing protection and blindness from not wearing safety goggles.
If those terms offend you, maybe we can try these out. Workicide? Jobicide? LOTOtation? What new terms would you use?
If you are lucky enough to work for a company that provides you with all the PPE you need, refresher training, LOTO procedures, safety meetings and listens to your safety concerns and then you knowingly and willingly put yourself or body at risk, you’re just nuts, my friend. Did you really cut those corners on safety to help the company make production goals or was it really your self-challenge to generate your daily adrenaline rush because you’re bored? Just looking for trouble. Think how bored you’ll be sitting at home doing nothing but staring where your fingers used to be. There are workers at companies where they don’t get to have a choice. They’re forced to put their lives in danger so they can feed their families and because of language barriers and are lied too or threatened and taken advantage of. Their stories only making the local news when a news station is looking for a juicy story for sweeps month, focus on their plight, only too late, as it’s their death that brought the coverage in the first place.
Think of safety as part of your skill set that you develop working in different situations and conditions along with your continued training and mentoring. Eventually, you’ll be teaching and mentoring while you continue learning.
If you do work in conditions that pose a threat to your health and safety, and no one is listening to your concerns, call the OSHA hotline.1 (800) 321-6742. Never keep quiet about safety.