The Simplicity of Safety


I was scrolling through Facebook today and a video shot inside of a pig slaughterhouse caught my eye. Since Facebook automatically plays videos as you scroll (thanks a LOT, ugh), I unfortunately caught a few frames of pigs being kicked and thrown before they were ultimately slaughtered. There were a few obligatory horrified comments under the video, and there was another commenter who posted a link. The link referenced a social media studies class at NYU in which students discuss the media’s short attention span, and that this company (Tyson), would likely suffer a short time with a bad rep. The article also referenced the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

Any safety professional worth their salt can spout off some stats about the Triangle tragedy: It was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of New York City, and one of the deadliest in the US, with 146 garment workers killed. 123 women and 23 men. They died from smoke inhalation, or falling or jumping to their deaths because the owners had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits to prevent theft and unauthorized breaks.

The Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy led to legislation to improve the safety and workplace conditions for factory workers. It is referenced to this day as an event that led to better worker safety conditions.

And yet, people are still dying on jobsites, in factories, and other workplaces. Just this week, an article highlighted the fact that six construction workers have died on jobsites in Broward County Florida in the past month. This is unacceptable.

I say this to someone at least once a week, and I’ll tell you too – safety is not rocket science. There are many safety professionals who have gone before me who took the opposite path. They authored written programs with volume in mind instead of practicality. A safety program spread across multiple 3″ binders is daunting to a plant manager, a site superintendent, or other front line supervisor.

I encourage my professional safety peers to remember this quote by Albert Einstein – “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Think about that.

How many times has a safety training session started out with a captive and even excited audience, only to lose them in the first 30 minutes of OSHA explainer slides in an unending, flat, lecture presentation? Your people are hungry for safety knowledge. They WANT to know how to do their jobs safely. They don’t want to die at work. They WANT the tools and information to do their job safely and go home. Give it to them by keeping your message simple and practical.

Each student should leave your classroom or trailer or any old conversation with at least one action item that they can do as soon as they get back to their crew. If they don’t have that, you have failed them.

Each supervisor should be able to reach for a simple, organized, and practical safety program as a resource at least once each week. If they can’t do that, you have failed them.

I challenge you to seek out the simplicity of your safety program and convey it to your people, their lives depend on you.

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