Who Taught You Workplace Safety?
Speaking to groups on safety in the workplace, I note that while workplace safety is a critical topic, it is often overlooked until it is too late. The most common answer I receive when I say that keeping each other safe is our most important responsibility is: “Well, safety doesn’t apply to me. I work in IT (or sales, or shipping or from home).”
I press the point to those folks and ask: “Who taught you workplace safety?” Not surprising, the answer is usually: “No one. As I said, I work in the office (or remotely, or from my car, or as a receptionist).”
It may surprise you to know…
As a safety speaker, it was no surprise to me that when I examined the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2021, that there were more than 2.8 million nonfatal accidents. Of those injuries, nearly 85 percent were caused by “Overexertion and bodily reaction, slips, trips, and falls, and contact with objects and equipment.”
Nor was it a surprise that to me that among the high-risk for injuries in 2021 were nursing assistants, stock clerks and warehouse workers. Industry statistics show that new employees were subject to higher injury rates than established employees. It is important to add that employees doing tasks outside of their normal comfort zone are also subject to higher injury rates.
While we expect truck drivers, construction workers, heavy machine operators to suffer from injuries, it is also office workers lifting boxes of copy paper, executives falling from ladders while stringing holiday lights, administrative assistants in “fancy shoes” walking across factory floors, IT personnel believing they are electricians and sales reps getting into serious vehicular accidents.
As a safety speaker, I must point out that the 2.8 million injuries in 2021 are not minor bumps and bruises, but serious enough to warrant hospitalizations, home recovery and doctor’s visits.
Who taught you?
Workplace safety is not a casual exercise, but serious business. COVID-19 lockdowns and hybrid work aside, the overall accident statistics for 2021 leading into 2022, are not that much different than 2019.
Why has this happened? The simplest reason is the truest reason: employees are not looking out for one another. They are not teaching one another. They are not reinforcing one another.
No number of safety posters, safety podcasts or safety classes – virtual or in-person – can replace employees who have a safety mindset, who are determined to look out for one another. This applies (unfortunately) as much to a co-worker in sales who may have had a libation after work or to an IT worker who is jury-rigging too many wires as it does to someone who has neglected to wear a safety harness or is about to lift a heavy pallet by themselves.
The mindset of all of us must be, “If I want to safely go home to my spouse or kids or Labradoodle, I am positive my co-worker wants that as well.”
Ultimately, it is up to everyone in the workplace, no matter how the workplace looks right now, to teach one another and to reinforce those lessons in themselves as well. As never before, the old expression “if you see something, say something,” applies to everyone in a safe workplace.
Scott Burrows, Motivational Safety Speaker. For more information, please contact Scott today or through this website or for more immediate attention at: 520 – 548 – 1169.