Safety & Self Motivation

SafetyNow has been involved in safety compliance and training since 1929. In our early days we operated as a magazine and newsletter publisher for trade associations throughout North America; our public facing brand was The Safe Foreman.

Periodically I take some time to thumb through our old articles and stories to see how OHS has changed, and how it hasn’t.

I always have to remind myself that the constant through the years is that we are always trying to influence human behavior, and that it’s a game of inches and not yards. It’s about iterative improvement… training, testing, auditing, correcting, retraining… and on and on. Sometimes it can feel like we are on a hamster’s wheel, but I know one thing to be absolute – when you stop focusing on OHS, productivity and profits fall faster than risk and compliance.

Here is a great submission from Gil Martin, Safety Officer at the Naval Supply Center in Charleston, South Carolina in 1982; but it could just have easily been submitted yesterday.

Sometimes I’m tempted-as I guess most safety people are once in a while-to just throw up my hands and quit.

Times like when I found a forklift operator using a defective forklift to handle acids. Turning the steering wheel had absolutely no effect on the direction of travel. Or times when I’m notified of an acid spill and arrive at the scene to find acid containers stored upside down and leaking. Didn’t those people see the hazard labels and the arrows?

Or times like one day a few weeks ago when, as I was driving past a warehouse, I saw something I just knew couldn’t be true! A forklift inside the warehouse … the tines raised about 10 feet from the floor … 17 pallets stacked on the tines (that’s right-17- 1 counted them!) … and on top of it all a man. A private contractor was repairing an overhead rolldoor.

In each of these cases, I wondered in frustration, “Why?” Why do people fail to use plain common sense? Why do they insist on trying to kill themselves?

In the 5 short years I’ve been in safety, I’ve found that there is no simple answer to these questions. So I derive some satisfaction (and a reason for not quitting) by knowing that “red tagging” the forklift, overseeing the acid spill cleanup, and shutting down the rolldoor repair until proper staging was obtained maybe-just maybe-helped prevent a serious injury or, perhaps, even a death.

Come to think about it, I get a lot of satisfaction.

So I don’t quit, as I’m sure most other safety people don’t. We’ll go on trying-the results of our efforts, for the most part, known only to ourselves.