I have been a member of the Safety Committee of the Canadian Association of Geophysical Contractors (CAGC) in one capacity or another for about five years.
This committee has grown in effectiveness each year and its accomplishments are increasing in importance to our industry, our clients and of course the workers. This committee cannot take the credit for all improvements in worker safety or the better statistics showing fewer lost time incidents according to an industry formula. While we cannot take that credit, we can share in the good feeling that all safety people must have when results mean that less people are injured, disfigured or otherwise unable to earn a living comfortably.
What I'm saying is that we can't take credit for what we likely have contributed to, but on the other hand we feel bad but are not responsible when something goes awry and someone is injured due to disregard for, or violation of, procedures or regulations that we have worked hard getting put into place.
Here's something that is easier to understand. You (meaning us collectively) have done a good job of presenting a work-safe program of one kind or another together and it is working well. Safety meetings show the topic being covered, tail-gate meetings follow up on details and you have also noticed improved work habits in that area.
Just about the time that you have put that item out of your mind and you get well involved in another project or start to shore up a weak area - the phone rings. One of your three year shining stars that you know is going to be able to take over that special project for you has thrown common sense to the wind, pulled a boo-boo of gigantic proportions that's going to slow production, put a piece of equipment in the shop for a few weeks, and, sure as hell - he is going to wind up in hospital in traction for a good stretch also.
Now who gets the opportunity of taking credit for that mess? No, it's not your fault, you had already done all and more to see to it that training, equipment, procedures, etc., had been in place and running so smooth that nothing like this could have happened.
Regardless of how sure you are that everything was running according to the book, it is necessary to investigate this incident from top to bottom and back again. Investigating incidents gives us the opportunity to examine ourselves from a new prospective. Make the best of this bad situation and examine it closely. Use every person at hand to assist you in this. Get everyone's input. Don't leave anyone out. Let everyone know that they are going to contribute to a good solution, not preparation for a lynching of everyone who may have contributed to poor judgement.
I guarantee you will find out details that you were unaware of before. You may have had suspicions but you now have proof. Now decide how you are going to turn a deficit into an asset.
You must also come to grips with another aspect. Punishment! Does the incident dictate that some form of punishment is necessary? It sure doesn't look like a reward is suitable. This too, must be part of your investigation. An example must be made for others to follow. Reward good judgement, punish poor judgement. Metting out a degree of punishment may be the only satisfaction that can be found in most substantial incidents.
Our reward driven society works relatively well. You do a good job, you can expect more payor advancement. Be satisfied with mediocrity or work poorly and expect the opposite. Properly handled, this works to improve safety attitudes and correspondingly better safety statistics.
This can be relatively well controlled in industry where an individual's habits are more or less controlled by the supervisory system. Therefore an individual's safety is more or less under control.
I have a problem when I read or hear about an individual's safety being compromised by some two-bit hoodlum who has taken advantage of another person's frailty; being old, incapacitated or lesser in number than the attackers. These people are at the mercy of those who likely have not received training to become responsible citizens, and are not under any kind of responsible supervision.
Furthermore, when (or if) they are caught, after investigation, does the punishment fit the crime? Not very likely and not very often.
Lets compare our industry problem to the general society problem.
We punish the individual and similarly all those who are partially responsible in industry. All those that shared in the irresponsible act feel the brunt of punishment in one way or another.
Does this happen in general society? Not in your life! Did the teachers, instructors, baby sitters or parents of the delinquent two-bit hoodlum share in any punishment of the improper act? Again, not likely.
We struggle with what punishment fits the crime. Does it make a better person? Does the work improve after some degree of punishment, shared possibly by several people? Usually it does.
Why then, can't and shouldn't we carry this back to our earlier learning ground in home life and make these parents and others who participate in the training of our youth also share in the punishment. I know, there are lots of bleeding hearts who would object to this idea, but let's quit burying our heads in the sand; let's face up to reality. Someone has to share in the responsibility and the punishment.
If every parent knew that they would share in the punishment for the wayward child that stole a car, committed improper acts, caused property damage and possibly threatened the safety of others, don't you think that eventually the responsibility would rest with the parent (management), and that eventually the community (work place) would be a much safer place to be?
If more responsibility were taken in the home, it would mean a much easier job for the safety committees in industry.
'Til next time, at work or play, Live Safely!