Championing Safety Outside the Workplace

Championing Safety Outside the WorkplaceLast summer I hired a contractor to do some repairs on my home that quite frankly went beyond my modest home-improvement abilities. Part of the job was centered on the soffit and gutter areas, and entailed the use of 30-ft ladders. Shortly after the contractor and his assistant had made their way up the ladders I noticed that a dark cloud had replaced the sunshine, and that it had started to rain. To complicate matters, the rain was accompanied by thunder, indicating a storm was on the horizon.

I went outside to let the contractor know there was a storm approaching and that I’d like them to take a break until it passed (storms typically blow by pretty quickly in Colorado). His answer surprised me. He told me he was accustomed to working in the rain and that he’d like to continue as long as he could before it got too bad. I let him know that in addition to the now-slippery surfaces of the rungs of the ladder I was also concerned (even more so) about the potential for a lightning strike at that height. 10 Things You Absolutely MUST KNOW About Reinforcing Your Safety Culture By Building EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

His response to that was, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years” (sound familiar)?  I explained that while I appreciated his years of experience on the job, that experience was not going win a battle against a bolt of lightning. I then asked if he had family, and he admitted he had a son at home.

So I asked, “Let’s say you were struck by lightning while on this ladder; How would your son be impacted by that”? His response was, “You know, that’s a good point; I just never looked at it that way before. … Okay, we’ll take a break for a while.”

Taking Safety Home

Last issue we looked at what it means to “take safety home” with us, and why it’s important to internalize safety as a culture and a mindset rather than a policy. We may be willing to stop a job at work due to an unsafe situation, but are we willing to step up in the same way and do that at home – or really anywhere! — when we see someone else in an unsafe place? Are we a champion of safety only when we are paid to be?

One way to foster a safety culture at home is to be that safety champion for your family. Are you silent when your spouse or kids do work at home without the proper PPE? Are they allowed to create or ignore a slip, trip or fall hazard, a pinch point or crush point, a puncture hazard, or high-noise exposure?

More concretely, do you say something when they allow spilled water to remain on the patio floor, when they leave the garden hose extended across the lawn, when they use a chair as a ladder, when they climb heights without fall protection, when they ride a bike without protective gear, when they stack cinder blocks without wearing gloves, when they change a tire without reinforcing the jack, when they walk past a piece of wood with a protruding nail, or when they mow the grass wearing flip-flops and no hearing protection? What you say – or don’t say – in these situations sends a message (loud and clear!) about how you view safety, which in turn models it for them.

A Few Examples

FCTC OnlineI mentioned last issue that most of us don’t maintain official safety “policies” at home. One exception may be with emergency procedures for a fire, a tornado, a flood, or other such emergency. It’s a good to have an official plan of action that is not only communicated but practiced. Holding a family “safety meeting” once a month to go over these emergency procedures and conduct emergency drills is a great way to make your family more confident in those situations, and more level-headed if they ever have to use those procedures.

Start by identifying and walking through all steps of the emergency procedure with them so that there is no question about what to do. For instance, what is the evacuation plan for a bedroom located on the second floor? Is there a rope or ladder available that can be used to help climb out of the window?

Do the same thing with fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, etc. It’s not enough to point out where these things are—they need a practice session on how they work to get a feel for what to do in an emergency situation. You don’t want them guessing their way through in a real emergency!

The same principles hold true for any at-risk activity. Do they know the proper way to light a grill? Do they know how to protect youngsters from electrical sockets, chemicals, and other hazards?

If safety is to become a culture (a way of life) at home it must be taught as a value that is internalized in both you and the members of your family. That’s the one sure way to ensure sustainability.

That’s it for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS. Until next time.

~ES

Eric Svendsen

Eric Svendsen, Ph.D., is Principal and lead change agent for safetyBUILT-IN, a safety-leadership learning and development organization. He has over 20 years experience in creating and executing outcomes-based leadership development and culture change initiatives aligned to organizational goals, and he personally led the safety-culture initiatives of a number of client organizations that resulted in “best ever safety performance” years for those companies.

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