Is Your Safety Generic or Personal?
Generic Safety. What does OSHA say about it? From the beginning, OSHA said that employers must provide employment and a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death, illness, or harm to employees. It’s the law.
Is that all? The short answer is NO…the rest of the story is that individuals and employees must also adhere to occupational safety and health standards, rules, regulations, and orders of the law. What’s more; Individuals must be safe in performance, actions and conduct.
In the realm of safety meetings, association conferences or even crew meetings, you seldom hear it said that employees have a personal obligation to obey OSHA. It’s usually that employees should not disobey company or client safety procedures. Maybe it’s because individuals have never read the OSHA law. Regardless what we think, the law says individual employees have a safety duty to perform at work. You can see it for yourself if proof is needed. See OSHA.gov.
After a series of incidents, some with injury, I was invited to speak to a project team that had attention deficits with workers not listening to foremen, thus getting into safety and quality troubles with assigned craft duties. During my talk, I noticed that some in the crowd were shaking their heads as if approving what I was saying. As speaker, I was hoping the message would be received, but the attendees were not listening. The nodding heads turned out to be bobbing heads. They were almost asleep on their feet. In angst, I stopped speaking, looked into the crowd at a guy I knew who was also nodding off in Wonderland. I pointed to the friend and said, “Say bud, please tell the team what I just said?” He was embarrassed and looked around to see if others were looking at him. Surely enough, he was the object of many stares. I asked again in a friendly manner, “Please tell everyone what I said.” He could not. Nor could the majority of the crowd. I continued my talk with the crowd more attentive. When complete, the project manager and the safety team had seen enough of wasted safety meetings. Together we came up with a plan called “Tell me what I told you”. It was added to the pre-task safety plan where each crew member was required to repeat the instructions that the foreman gave. It worked. From then on, the team had no more injuries and the idea of repeating instructions really caught on. Most leaders know that communications can be a big issue in the industry. We seem to have a telling as well as a listening problem.
Knowledgeable people will tell you that personal safety is about individuals, the feeling of being secure, free from harm, hostility, and harassment. Home safety, with family, is different than corporate or project safety. A company president told me that personal safety is also about health and wellness and at-home security may include community security and even environmental health if an issue overtakes families or the neighborhood.
WHERE DOES YOUR SAFETY FIT IN?
Personal safety at work could be individual safety within a group. The potential is for one or more to be harmed for the disregard of established generic safety plans and procedures. It should not be ‘What’s in it for me?” It’s more of, “Let’s do this together for team safety and security reasons.”
I’ve defined generic safety as codes and standards, engineering designs, corporate vision and mission statements and project plans. It’s the over-arching umbrella of things to do because the law or prudence says so. It’s a bunch of requirements to keep the corporate team safe from harm.
The question is: Where do you fit safety in your world? Is it personal only? Do you work safely as a teammate just because you have to or do you perform safely because it’s the right thing to do for your own wellbeing? My guess is it’s both, and my suggestion is that you work safely because it’s the right thing to do generically and personally because it’s for all the right reasons.