A Mother on the Job
We’ve all watched young mothers care for a newborn child. As the child learns to crawl, mom is meticulous in placing household cleaners out of reach. She ensures that dad installs locks on all drawers that have knives or sharp objects, and together they remove all objects that could fall on their little explorer if he should jiggle a table. The vigilance is endless.
As the child grows older, mom and dad teach him to ride a bike, but always with a helmet, and always with the proper high-visibility clothing. They are constantly teaching the child to obey rules that will keep him safe.
Soon the child is off to school, and with school come more dangers. Mom teaches her child about the perils of traffic, riding a school bus and a myriad of other activities the child engages in, now without mom’s close supervision.
Mom continually insists that her child form good safety habits too numerous to mention. Is he wearing his helmet when he rides a bike or skateboard? Does he look both ways before crossing the street? Is coming home when the streetlights go on a routine part of his life?
Then the day comes when mom and dad hand their son the car keys. They teach the child about speed, alcohol, drugs and other drivers who may make poor choices. By example, they have taught their child about proper use of seat belts and other safety precautions. He knows how to change a flat tire and perform other emergency techniques.
Finally, after all those years of worry and vigilance, their 20-year-old son gets a job as an apprentice with your company. If the mother of your new employee were observing her child during his first few days of work, would it change how you introduce him to the workplace? What if all the mothers of your employees were continually watching how their sons and daughters are treated at your worksite?
Here are several other questions you might think about:
• Would mom be concerned about the depth and quality of presentation in your new hire orientation? Did the presentation make it clear that the new employee’s personal safety is your company’s biggest concern, or did the presenter just speed through the material so the “real” work could begin? Would mom look at her son’s face and know that he didn’t really understand all of the information that was flying at him? Would she ask that the presenter slow down and use better teaching techniques so her son would have the proper information to start work?
• Would mom have concerns about the quality and adequacy of the personal protective equipment you gave to her son? Would the equipment adequately protect him if an emergency occurred?
• When your new employee’s mom watched him climb in a truck to go to the worksite, would she be concerned because few of the older employees were wearing seat belts? Did a couple of her son’s new work companions appear to be unfit for duty when they arrived for work?
• At the job site, would the pre-job briefing resolve mom’s concerns about obvious job site hazards? Was her son free to ask questions and get any issues resolved before work started? Did he understand his role in the work, and did he know how to perform his tasks without injury?
• Would mom be satisfied with the training you gave her son before he started working around cranes, bucket trucks and digger derricks? Did you tell him about the swing radius on the crane? Did she see all the crew members coaching each other to avoid hazards?
Looking at our job sites through a mother’s eyes is a good practice. Thinking of each crew member as someone’s son or daughter helps to focus on what really matters.
Years ago it was my task to escort a mom, dad and sister to a generation station where their son and brother was tragically electrocuted. I showed them the energized breaker that their loved one had unwittingly fallen into. In my mind, I remember the witnesses sobbing out ways the incident could have been prevented. I remember the mom hugging me and thanking me for my kindness.
I can tell you that it is far better to protect the mothers of the world from hearing those awful words by caring for our workers. No one should have to make a phone call to tell a mother her child is gone.
About the Author: Kelly Sparrow, CUSP, J.D., works as a consultant for Ambient Safety LLC. He has extensive experience teaching safety leadership principles, investigating serious industrial and third-party injuries, and laying safety foundations that encourage employees to form a safety culture.