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When Safety Slows You Down

Safety enables you to do the other parts of your job.

One way that people often look at safety is it gets in the way of getting the job done. The reality is that safety is the main job. It doesn’t get in the way of anything. To the contrary, safety is what enables you do to the other jobs. Think of safety as permissive (enabling you to do other work), rather than restrictive (in the way of other work). So, for example, lockout/tagout doesn’t get in the way of replacing a motor controller. It’s what allows the motor controller replacement to happen in the first place.

A pattern that emerges repeatedly in accident reports is most of the time the injured and/or deceased were not working methodically. Either they took shortcuts in an attempt to speed things up, or they just didn’t fully understand how to do the job.

A person who does not work in a methodical manner is far less efficient than one who does. That’s because the non-methodical person takes wasted steps, redoes work, misses important steps, performs the work inefficiently, and many times performs the work in a substandard way.

When you account for the cost-saving effects of methodology, what becomes clear is that, of the two, the methodical worker is the one saving time. So working in a methodical, disciplined [NFPA 110.1(C)] manner is more efficient, cost-effective, and productive than the one who is not working in that manner. When safety practices are woven into the methodology, the difference is even greater.

On this last point, consider what happens when a worker dies because he didn’t follow the lockout/tagout procedure. There’s a work stoppage that may last hours. Those twenty minutes the employee “saved” turn into many lost labor hours among various company employees (including the HR rep). The costs to the company are huge, as are the costs (emotional and financial) to the family of the deceased.

If you ever start thinking that safety is slowing you down, stop what you’re doing. Take a walk or do something until your mind is clear again. If the real issue is that there’s an unreasonable barrier in performing a safety task, discuss this with your supervisor. Just don’t go down the path of seeing safety itself as the problem.

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