From the outside, safety just seems like a cold hard set of rules to follow passed down from the general assembly, OSHA or the company. The rules are only in place to keep someone from getting to work on time or a general inconvenience to slow down the work process.
I recently read a blog on the EHSToday website by the associate editor Ginger Christ that discusses the concept of the place of emotion within the field of safety. She asserts that emotion and making safety personal is an important way to approach one’s safety practice in companies, as professionals, and in your everyday personal safety practices.
She is right, all safety practices are personal whether we know it or not. Almost every choice each one of us makes during our routine activities of daily living (not texting while driving or not leaving an iron unattended) and at work (use of proper lock-out-tag-out procedure or properly storing flammable liquids) can and does often affect others, our loved ones, or ourselves. One oversight, one lapse of attention, or one instance of bypassing the safety policies can lead to tragedy. In that instance, safety becomes very personal.
At my work site, a furniture manufacturing facility, I recently started listing the names of the people who sustained injuries or near misses during reports to the safety committee and to the supervisor’s production meeting on purpose. In my mind, management should know (and I should say this group actually does care about the people who work for them) the names of the people that were affected by either conditions, decisions, or lack of attention by themselves or the company.
I have heard managers and safety professionals speak many times about having to inform family members that their loved one has been injured or killed at work. It is a life changing event for all involved and as personal as safety and life can get.
If asked to picture in your mind an image of the Challenger accident, do you see the iconic image of the explosion or do you see the faces of the crew and their families.
As safety professionals, fellow employees, and as human beings, we should indeed make safety personal and as important regarding those around us as it is for ourselves. As we make choices to follow or not follow safety rules and policies, we should remember others and the possible consequences of our actions.