Most of us have the necessary skills and knowledge to do our jobs well, and most of us don’t want to hurt ourselves or anyone else. So why do we take shortcuts that set up us and others for injury?
Consider this list of things we often do, even though we know we should not:
- We can’t fool safety devices, but we remove or wedge back safety guards so they won’t protect us.
- We shouldn’t take a chance when operating heavy equipment, but we don’t use the seat belt that is provided.
- We know that flames or sparks are not permitted around flammable liquids, but some of us smoke around them.
- A protruding nail in a guard rail can cause an injury, but we don’t bother to remove it or bend it over.
- Horseplay causes many injuries on the job, but many of us continue to play practical jokes.
- A circular saw can amputate a finger, but some of us insist on using the saw without a guard.
- We know the safe way to climb a ladder, but we climb it with one hand full of tools.
- We should wear our PPE, but we leave our goggles strapped on top of our hard hats.
- We know to read the SDS before using chemicals, but we use the chemical anyway.
- We should wear a life jacket when working over water, but we go out over the water without one.
- A bump or bruise to the head can really hurt, but we continue to work without our hard hats.
- It is dangerous to block fire fighting equipment, but we stack boxes of material in front of fire extinguishers.
- We know we are not supposed to work within 10 ft of a power line, but there’s just one more load of steel to be unloaded and it won’t happen to me.
This is only a brief list of shortcuts that play out every day in workplaces everywhere. Most of us, at one time or another, have taken shortcuts, usually thinking we are saving time. Sure, some ideas are time-savers, but they are good ideas only if safety is not sacrificed. Workers' lives and health are too important to risk by taking chances. Too often, we've learned that the minute or two saved by taking a shortcut costs a worker days, weeks or months of recovery time.
Wayne Nickson is health and safety manager with W.C. Striegel Inc. in Rangely, CO.
Originally published Feb. 24, 2017.