By Gary L. Parr, Editorial Director
Most of my adult life I’ve been involved in one church committee/organization or another. For a good number of years I was chairman of the congregation. Anyone who has done this type of work knows that, more than anything, it involves an endless parade of meetings. Actually, more meetings than work. If you’ve been similarly involved, you also know that every meeting begins and ends with a prayer.
I’ve conducted so many meetings through the years that the practice of beginning and ending with a prayer has become so ingrained that I get a strange feeling when any non-church meeting doesn’t begin with a bowing of the heads. I get over it, but there is always that moment at the beginning of a business meeting in which I feel compelled to lead a prayer. Of course, any clerical person would applaud this and say that any gathering should begin and end with prayer. But it doesn’t work that way in the business world, so I let the moment pass.
I thought this engrained habit was just a weird church/Jesus thing until I attended my first Maintenance Excellence Roundtable conference a couple of months ago. No, they didn’t start each day with a prayer. But they did start with the thing that’s ingrained in their psyches—a safety moment.
It really caught me off guard, but I immediately saw the value for us in a conference room as we took a moment to cover obvious things such as exits, fire extinguishers, and potentially dangerous electrical cord placement. As a result, whenever I sit down for a meeting/event in an unfamiliar room, I find myself conducting my own safety moment by looking for exits, extinguishers, and possible exit choke points. That’s not something I ever did before encountering the MER people.
The brief discussions also made me appreciate the value of making safety the first thing that’s talked about in any plant gathering. Starting meetings with a safety discussion constantly drives home the message that safety is the top priority, no matter what people have gathered to discuss.
It’s so ingrained in the members of the MER organization that each MER Board of Directors telephone conference call starts with a safety item. Yes, it’s part of a telephone meeting in which everyone is in a different location. It’s usually a telling of a positive or negative safety event that someone has experienced. It only takes a couple of minutes, but it’s always there and always first.
The most recent story was about a person who was using a cutting tool and a piece of the blade broke off and inserted in his safety glasses. If the photo doesn’t inject in you a full appreciation for safety glasses, nothing will. In the safety discussion it also raised the question about whether, in these situations, a full face guard isn’t a better choice. Regardless, safety glasses will be on my face whenever I use power tools at home.
While I’ve always appreciated the importance of safety in industrial settings, the MER members have taught me that it’s much more than some set of rules everyone follows. To be effective, it has to become second nature to everyone, but first on that list of second-nature things.
To do our part, we provide you with four safety-related articles this month, beginning on p. 20. While reading those articles won’t change your safety culture, they’ll likely serve as either a starting point or a refresher. The real work is on your end.
I would suggest that, if safety isn’t ingrained in everything everyone does at your company, it’s not too tough to start by requiring that a safety moment be first on every meeting agenda. The only exception to that policy would be at church where we’re going to continue to start with a prayer. MT