REACTIVE SAFETY IS TOO LATE
There’s a reactive side and a pro-active side to safety. In so many, many instances we find ourselves on the reactive side which is the wrong place to be. That means that something has happened and now we have to take whatever action we can to mitigate the damage and destruction. My mind goes to a recent bus crash in Saskatchewan, students murdered in Florida or a rental van racing down a sidewalk in Toronto. Some of our responsive actions don’t really mean much, don’t do much and certainly can’t help much.
You hear our world leaders use clichés to try to ease the pain. “Our thoughts and our prayers are with you.” is a common statement. What else can they do? It’s already happened. That can’t bring anyone back.
If, through investigation, your government or that employer is found at fault for something that could have been prevented, then, watch them squirm. Watch them shift the blame onto anybody or everybody they can to evade criticism.
A very famous safety quote by Captain E. J. Smith (Captain of the Titanic – quoted in the press just before sailing) “it will never happen to me.”
I understand that we have to be fiscally responsible when it comes to spending dollars but, I see so many scenarios where, in trying to save a few bucks, deaths, serious injuries and whole families are destroyed because the decision maker places a higher value on currency than life itself. “Oh, we can’t spend that much!” Twenty-six miners killed at the Westray Coal Mine in Nova Scotia come to mind. Finally, it’s become a crime.
From my personal experience as a safety practitioner, my worst experience was my company ordered me to stay out of a building under construction. The words: “You stay out of there, it’s being built to code.” Regrettably, I did as I was ordered.
On a cool spring night, five years later, I got called out of bed because an employee had collapsed in that building. When I arrived, the man was deceased, still on the floor and although I was not allowed inside, I could see through the window that he was “cherry red” in colour. That provided an instant signal to me that carbon monoxide was involved.
Sure enough, following a long investigation with MOL court case where the company paid out a fortune, it was found that a mechanical vehicle exhaust system was installed in the three service bays but, not the wash bay.
We’ll never know why the employee closed the bay doors – when it was not normal for him. We’ll never know why he left the engine running. We’ll never know why the employee took the time to change a headlight while the vehicle was running inside with the doors closed.
What we do know is that the company spent millions having new automatic exhaust systems installed in all company service buildings, bringing staff in for grief counselling, entire staff retrained with what appeared to be, ridiculous (gone overboard) rules, rescheduling of staff and reporting procedures, the entire fleet’s exhaust emissions recalibrated for each vehicle, and massive fines and legal fees. In addition, publicity was not handled well and a poor reputation was developed by the media, fellow business owners and our own employees.
All the tools were available to prevent that tragedy and a lot more as well (community reputation) but, were purposely ignored, avoided and ridiculed to save a buck. My failure? My regret? I didn’t push back hard enough!
So, what’s the alternative?
The pro-active side of safety relies on a positive safety culture. It is a culture, led from the top, followed and promoted by middle management and carried out by the entire workforce to look for every reasonable precaution to save a life, stop an injury or prevent damage of any kind. Everybody has a part to play. Everybody is responsible for the other guy’s safety, no matter where or how small it is.
Safety culture is an “all inclusive” way of thinking from the newest employee to the person at the very top. It needs to include each and every hazard possibility and be carried forward to protect all. Thinking has to go into it, your thoughts have to be presented and everyone must listen. The discussion needs to include all viewpoints, evaluate the risk and everyone needs to share and train with the results.
Prevent the kid from tripping over his own shoelace first and, in the worst case scenario circumstances, you just may save a life.
Keep your people safe.
The beauty of life is in your hands.
About the Author
Your Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions
Nick Nicholson, is a retired safety practitioner who spent many years researching the human behaviour factors of driver and pedestrian actions. Specifically, he spent 25 of those years devoted to highway crash investigations, regulatory compliance, the design, implementation and presentation of safety programs. Nick enjoyed many hours presenting professional driver enhancement training to adult participants.
As a long time Fleet Safety Council Member (1988) and the Founding Chair (1992-1995) of Council’s Hamilton-Niagara Chapter, he presents his opinions in hopes of improving the safety knowledge of readers. Nick is a firm believer in human advancement through positive attitudes, solution thinking and the understanding that the beauty of life is always in your hands.
Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions are his own and in no way reflect the opinions of Fleet Safety Council.