Safety is a unique blend of hard engineering science, management skills and ethics. As the safety is practiced, it is inevitable that both truths and myths are created. Here are a few of each for you to consider in light of your own professional practice.
Truth #1: Compliance with the legal requirements is NOT all that is required. It is important to realize that the regulations are a compromise on what can get passed through Congress – not what really is needed to protect employees. Make no mistake, the regulations are helpful but most of the time fall somewhat short of complete control of the hazard. The industry is responsible for fine tuning the regulations to fully fit their own situation.
Truth #2: Neither management nor the workforce can entirely drive the safety program. Both management personnel, with their position authority, specialized training such as engineering and human resources, and the production personnel with their intimate knowledge of how things actually work have essential components necessary to make the safety program work.
Truth #3: Posters, team meetings, flyers and other exhortations will NOT keep workers focused on safety. In fact, none of those work. Adults very quickly look ‘past’ these trinkets and see the underlying message being conveyed by management and more specifically by their boss. These types of reminders are often counterproductive as they add more ‘noise’ the environment making communication that much more difficult.
Myth #1: If we tell the employees, they will then know it and do it. It is their responsibility then and we can consider our job done. Sadly this is simply not true. Telling is not the same as informing and just because they may know it, there are tremendous forces at work both in their personal lives as well as the shop floor that will tend to make compliance difficult.
Myth #2: My guys are good. They’ve been at this a long time and know how to be safe. The reality is that the work place is far too fluid to rest on ‘common sense’. It takes ACTIVE engagement to determine the best way to accomplish a task. The fact is that many young men see themselves as invincible and make choices that put them and others at risk. Studies have shown that the male brain is not fully developed until age 25 or so.
Myth #3: The consensus standards (ANSI, NFPA, NEC, CGA, etc.) do not apply to my workplace. This is patently not true and there are many places in the regulations where OSHA refers out of the 29 CFR 1910 standards to an ANSI or other consensus standard as the minimum acceptable under the law.
There are certainly more truths and myths alike to be had. Do you have a favorite one to share?