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Solving a Safety Dilemma

Safety concerns at a new job put an electrician in what looks like a difficult spot.

You recently hired on as a maintenance electrician and are still in your first 90 days, the probationary period. In fact, you are in your first week. Already, four unsettling incidents have occurred:

  1. An operator told you he placed a jumper across an e-stop switch, explaining the switch isn’t supposed to be there and it’s too easy to bump it accidentally. You mentioned this to another electrician, who told you “we don’t get involved in what other departments do.”
  2. You went on a trouble call with another electrician. The issue required opening a control cabinet and measuring voltages to trace the ladder logic. He put his safety glasses in his shirt pocket and handed you the meter. When you said he needed his eye protection, he seemed annoyed.
  3. Then you looked at the meter leads and noticed they’d been taped. When you said the leads were unsafe and had to be replaced, he asked for the meter back and closed the cabinet. Again acting annoyed, he asked you if you wanted to walk to the shop and back for another set of test leads. You said you would, and when you came back with the leads he handed you the meter without saying a word.
  4. While accompanying another electrician on a series of PMs, you saw him walk around a puddle but do nothing about it. When you asked about reporting the slipping hazard, he said “we don’t have time”.

So far, nobody has gotten hurt. But this pattern is bothering you. Should you discuss this with your supervisor before your probationary period is up and risk losing the job? Or should you wait until your probationary period is up and then say something?

Before choosing, consider the following:

  • Getting through your probationary period doesn’t guarantee your employment. If something is “bad” now it will be “bad” after the 90 days.
  • Being concerned for safety isn’t something that will kill your chances of passing probation. Being tardy to work, doing sloppy work, being disrespectful of others, yes, those kinds of things are likely to get you canned during the probationary period.
  • This could be a test. All of these situations can easily be faked to see how you respond, even under the pressure of trying to make it through the probationary period. With four of them and no mention to your supervisor, a company committed to safety might not want to keep you.
  • If the situations are real, any good supervisor would expect you to say something. Why would you want to work at a company that would dismiss you for being a safe worker?

Many times, what appears to be a tough choice isn’t one.

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