By Chris Palmisano
You’ve probably received safety training for years, never really thinking that it could happen here. Then, a coworker is seriously injured and all the sudden, employees are immersed into reality. As a Safety Professional, my reality is that it can happen anywhere, at any time, to anyone.
Accidents affect all of us. Witnessing an injured employee’s physical pain, emotional stress from an injury, loss of income and general sadness of their family, can sometimes be overwhelming. You may say to yourself, after a serious accident, “our attitude has to change”. You make a good point. It’s unfortunate that it takes a sad event for employees to suddenly be willing to accept suggestions that weeks ago, went in one ear and out the other.
Why does this happen? Plain and simple, it’s “ATTITUDE”. When something is out of site, it’s out of mind. A positive attitude toward safety pays off in countless ways. Everyday your operation goes without an injury is a win. Your good attitude towards safety should be grounded by your organization’s success, not as a result of failure. Today is the best time to get started and develop a good attitude toward safety, not after an accident.
A good attitude is a habit that can be learned! There are three basic elements to a safe workplace. They are Attitude, Awareness & Action, simple concepts that are worth thinking about. If you choose to ignore these three basic elements of safety you are just rolling dice.
ATTITUDE: Requires focus on the tasks and the controls needed to promote safety. You must take the time needed to plan on how to do a job safely, with willingness to do what’s right. Others may want you to take short cuts or cut corners but a good attitude means you have the intestine fortitude to do the right thing.
Accountability is also important. It means you care about safety and you believe in the cause and you do the hard work. Being accountable is safety means that you must always think of yourself as part of a team, better yet, a family. After all, we are a family. We spend more time with coworkers in our lifetime than we spend with our own families.
AWARENESS: Louise Pasture said, “Chance will only favor the prepared mind”. Awareness is the ability to directly know, perceive, or be cognizant of possible outcomes through knowledge. More broadly, it is the state of being conscious of something through learning or studying. Therefore, Awareness is best achieved through education. The most successful safety professionals I’ve ever met in my career were those that were well educated in safety and regulatory compliance. We can only apply what we know to avoid unpleasant outcomes. The less we know the less effective we are.
Aside from the classroom, a great way to spread your awareness is face-to-face, through training, during frequent and regular inspections and task observation in the workplace. Talk to employees, don’t be the safety police. A Safety Professional must be a trusted advisor in the workplace, not a finger pointer.
ACTION: Finally, action is the process of doing something to achieve an aim. Simply said, safety takes stretch and hard work to be effective. Measuring effectiveness in safety is unique from other jobs. Our greatest days as Safety Professionals are based on a “naught outcome”, when everyone goes home in one piece. In my opinion, “zero accidents” is the greatest reward a safety professional can have.
Chris is a Professional Risk Management Consultant, a former Philadelphia Fire Department Lieutenant and former OSHA Compliance Officer. He is the creator of the InSite GHS Hazcom Workplace Labeling System for Secondary Chemical Containers. For questions about this article or his workplace chemical labeling system to meet the OSHA’s GHS June 2016 requirement, you can reach Chris at: ChrisAPal@aol.com or at LinkedIn.