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Incident Prevention Magazine

4 minutes reading time (890 words)

Eliminating Excuses

"Management is pushing us, customers are pushing us and we don't have enough help." This excuse for taking short cuts is becoming more prominent in the workforce. When I hear it, I cringe! We must take personal responsibility and not let other factors distract us from having safety on our minds. No one can make you do anything you don't want to do unless you give him or her permission. The supervisors, crew leaders and linemen who attend my seminars consistently tell me that they need more help

In most cases I agree with their assessments; however, it doesn't serve them well to use any excuses for taking short cuts.
One of my clients has a slogan that reads: "No operating condition or urgency of service can ever justify endangering the life of anyone." YES! Imagine a culture where everyone takes responsibility for embracing that kind of message. Management creates an environment of trust where this message can be supported. Supervisors and workers believe that the message is indeed part of the company's operations. They act on it rather than just talk about it.

When a company adopts such a powerful message it is vital to back it up. Management must back up the message by providing necessary equipment and manpower. There are times when supervisors are faced with getting more done with less. It is the supervisor's duty to know the job requirements and conduct all tasks according to the company's safety procedures. In addition, management, supervision, crew leaders and workers should understand that they are a team. The team's goal is to see that everyone goes home in the same condition they came to work in.
Supervision is the first rung on the management ladder. Management should understand that the supervisor usually has to have "one foot on the ladder and one on the ground." In other words, the supervisor is often working alongside the people he or she is responsible for leading. Therefore, management must support the role of the supervisor, especially when it comes to setting the safety priority in the company.
Supervisors must balance the needs of management and their workers. But they must never disregard a safe work procedure because "it takes too long." Death is permanent. Injury can be debilitating. Management and workers will not easily forgive the supervisor for taking or encouraging a short cut. A friend of mine used to say, "It is not long remembered how long a job took, but it is long remembered how it looks." An injury or death is long remembered; taking a shortcut to save even one hour can last a lifetime. I know what you're thinking: "Carl, you don't understand!"
Yes, I do!
The bottom line is, you can only do as much as you can with what you are given. Because you are short-handed, you may be tempted to not conduct your hazardous energy control or follow lockout/tagout procedures, tie off the ladder, get out and do a 360-degree check around the vehicle before moving it, or test your safety equipment. Remember the last words of many workers were, "Oh, I don't need to do that this time" or "We don't have time for that." If you are not a manager or a supervisor, it is still your responsibility to watch out for yourself and others. Keep in mind it will take a whole lot more time and money to investigate an accident, injury or death than it will to prevent that accident, injury or death.

If your supervisor wants to take a shortcut, stop him and suggest a discussion. Job briefings are intended to prevent accidents by providing a dialogue anong workers. If you are not trained properly or feel unable to do a task, speak up. If you are a supervisor, become aware of others' input. If one of your team asks a question, consider it. Never allow anyone, management or the workforce, to cause you to take a short cut and violate a proven safe work procedure. Crew leaders can be the most effective people on the team for attaining this goal.
On the jobsite workers report to one person who has the responsibility to ensure everyone follows safe work procedures. That one person is the crew leader. Crew leaders typically take clearance on the equipment, pass out the assignments and lead the job briefing. OSHA's requirement for workers to show competency and make sure that workers are qualified to perform a task should fall on the crew leader. Since crew leaders are not always trained to handle the task of managing crew workers, supervisors are responsible for making sure that crew leaders are trained and performing their job. When everyone is taking personal responsibility for their role in safety, the result will be that everyone goes home everyday without injury. Isn't that the goal? ip

Carl Potter is president of Potter and Associates. He can be contacted at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or

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