Why Take a Chance?


February 1, 2008

A personal commitment to safety, regardless of peer pressure, will help you leave work safely each day.

Do you always work safely? Are you 100 percent committed to the safety of yourself, your coworkers, friends, and family? Are there times when your commitment to safety is not as strong as it should be? If you think that you do not have to worry about safety because nothing has happened to you thus far, don’t expect your luck to hold. No one ever expects an accident. By definition, an accident is an unplanned event. No one wakes up in the morning and drives to work thinking, “I will have an accident today so I’d better buckle up.” No one ever climbs to the very top of a ladder and knows for sure that he or she won’t fall. That’s why it’s so important to have a personal commitment to safety; a commitment to do the right things to prevent an accident — or minimize the damage done in case an accident does occur.

What is gained by taking a chance? Think about a time when you’ve risked your personal safety. Have you ever bypassed lockout-tagout procedures?  Have you ever driven a car after you had too much to drink? Have you failed to use fall-protection equipment because it was just too much trouble? What did you gain in that situation? Maybe you gained some time and convenience. Now honestly ask yourself if those gains were worth it. Is a little bit of time or convenience really worth exposing yourself to an electrocution, a car accident, entanglement in moving machine parts, or a bad fall? Think about this for a moment. How is the decision you make going to affect you, your family, and your co-workers. Every time you are tempted to participate in risky behavior, ask yourself if it’s really worth the risk. Ask yourself if you would allow your spouse, child, or friend to take that chance.

Keeping a strong commitment to safety is not easy. There are multiple factors that interfere with this commitment including time. Do not ever underestimate the effect time has on the decisions we make. People will go to great extremes to save a little bit of time. Peer pressure can cause us to put ourselves at risk. An example of this is the producer who sets a production target and then, through personal drive to meet that target, puts himself or herself at risk by taking chances.

Humans value what their peers think of them. Do your peers think it’s silly to take time for safety? If this is the case, you can set a safe example for your peers by taking a stand for safety. Committing to safety 100 percent of the time helps reverse the peer pressure that sometimes causes unsafe behavior. Keep up this exemplary behavior and someday you may find that the old peer pressure has given way to something new — the respect of your peers earned by setting a safe example.

It’s normal for your commitment to safety to fluctuate. Sometimes it’s strong, at other times it’s weak. Unfortunately, it tends to be strong just after a close call, or perhaps for a few days after you hear of an accident. Then the commitment wanes, only to be strengthened again by another tragedy. Simply recognizing this pattern can help you avoid it. Think about your work habits. Have there been times when you’re more likely to take a risk? How about those times when you’ve been extra careful; did the strength of your safety commitment depend on an outside event such as another person being involved in an accident?

You can keep your commitment to safety strong by remembering the commitment is for your own safety. If you allow things that happen to other people to determine the strength of your commitment, it is highly likely to fluctuate. You can always learn from things that happen to other people, but to keep your commitment strong all the time, stay focused on your personal safety and those things you do that affect it.

Having a personal commitment to safety and keeping it strong are more important than any safety program, procedure, or rule. In fact, programs, procedures, and rules depend on a strong personal commitment to safety. Ask yourself where you are with your own safety attitude and behavior. Are you 100 percent committed to safety, 100 percent of the time? You are? Great! Need some improvement? Promise yourself to work on it — and keep that promise. You’ll be glad you did.

Information contained in this article was provided through the MSHA-NSSGA Alliance and was written cooperatively by members of both the aggregates industry and the regulatory agency.

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