By Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor
Having been an avid motorcyclist for more than 40 years, I’m well versed in the need for constant awareness: continuously reading the ever-changing roadscape and traffic environment in front of and behind me; constantly watching members of the “tin can” fraternity who may or may not see me and do me harm. This conscientiousness was instilled early in me by my father—another avid motorcyclist, who taught me to be aware of my surroundings as I pedaled my bike through our neighborhood—and by Tufty the Squirrel.
Tufty was the 1960s brainchild of the British Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. He appeared on television and in countless school posters advocating “the Kerb Drill” that was used to teach children how to cross the road safely. I still practice that drill today!
Over the years, I’ve married those awareness tactics with a quality motorcycle-maintenance program and a commitment to wear appropriate safety gear that includes boots, gloves, pants, a sturdy jacket and an approved helmet as part of my motorcycle “arrive alive” strategy. In short, I believe (and live) what I was always taught: that I am responsible for my own safe conduct at all times, which, in turn, helps ensure the safety of others around me. This belief has held me in good stead in all aspects of life—including the workplace.
Alas, there appears to be a new movement afoot in which people have seemingly abdicated their personal responsibilities when it comes to safety. During a recent visit to my local university library, four students in separate incidences jaywalked in front of my car with neither a turn of their heads nor any eye contact. Lucky for them, I anticipated their actions and was able to brake in time. (Those with earphones in place never even realized their fate had been tested!)
Abdicating one’s personal responsibilities in the area of safety could be especially troublesome around a workplace. The possibility of having to deal with problems that might result from such situations has led one plant I know of to institute the following policy: A maintenance supervisor must sit down with each trade prior to the individual being dispatched to a job and discuss an exhaustive list printed on the work order. The list covers all possible hazards that could arise in performance of the job, including, among other things, materials the worker might come into contact with and safety-gear requirements. At the conclusion of the conversation, the supervisor has the trade sign off that he/she agrees the appropriate safety training has taken place within the past 12 months and that a pre-job safety discussion has, in fact, occurred. Time-consuming, yes, but as this facility has decided, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
Although we applaud such diligence, we can’t help but wonder about the role personal responsibility plays. Employers clearly have a responsibility to make their workplaces as safe as possible and, accordingly, train staff to act in a safe manner. To ignore this would be irresponsible—and totally unacceptable. Many maintenance professionals, however, probably still believe that a license, an accreditation or a professional designation also brings with it a certain degree of responsibility and accountability for our own selves and others affected by our actions or inaction.
While “Safety First” are words to work and live by, it’s important to remember that safety starts with you and me. Good luck and stay safe! LMT