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Seeing the Big Picture

Nov 3 2016

As a young man, I tried on many hats when it came to working before becoming a Safety Professional. Granted all of these positions were entry level, but boy did I learn a lot. The old saying “hindsight is 20/20” is true, we learn from our experiences. Back then I was eager to jump in and get dirty. I was willing to try and learn something new, but many times this ended with an incident. I’m not talking about injuries, but it never failed that something would go wrong because of my lack of knowledge, experience, and communication. More times than not I
would think that a task was easy and that there was no risk from what I could see. I was wrong. I remember one time we were pulling 4/0 wire 250 feet underground with a truck and a pulley system for about 10 hrs straight. I was willing to do more than my part to get the job done, so I went to work. The first thing I did was reeve the pulley wrong, so it tore the casing off the first ten feet of wire. After that, I was sent to the other side to help pull the guideline through the pipe attached to the wire.


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There I broke the pull line and had to fish it out of the pipe to get started again. I did this for most of the day. By the end of the day, I had blisters on my hands the size of quarters. They asked If I wanted gloves, but I had small hands and gloves never fit, so I declined. The next day my arms hurt so bad I could barely move them. Needless to say, I’ve had my share of incidents at work.

As I look back and reflect on these, I realize in most situations it was my lack of awareness that led to the incidents. We walk into situations at work all the time and see no dangers with what we are about to do. We wear blinders, or have tunnel vision. All we see is the task at hand and how to complete it. Some of us grew up in an atmosphere where work was a priority, with a “Get-R-Done” attitude instilled in us at an early age. We were to work hard and produce results promptly that were acceptable to our superiors. Like mowing the lawn, if it took all day my dad would give me crap, but if I got it done in a few hours, he would praise me for a job well done, and find more for me to do.

This mentality is holding us back. When it comes to working safely, we have to teach ourselves to take off the blinders. We need to learn how to look at the task as a whole, not just a start and finish and work out the in between as you go. A discussion needs to take place for the start of any task. If you talk about what you are going to do, the steps you need to take to get there and what you want to achieve, you will begin to see the task as a process, not just an action. You will start realizing that there are hazards associated with the work. The discussion
should be with the people you are working with on the job. If you are working alone, then have the conversation with yourself. Take the time to go through the process in your head. Ask yourself to assess what you are going to do. If you find that you are going to affect people around you, have the conversation with them too.

Safety is about communication. If you know what I’m doing and the steps involved, and I know what you are doing and the steps you are taking, it is hard for the unexpected to happen. If the steps change or the unexpected does happen, STOP, have another conversation to get back to knowing. Discuss what to expect before moving forward.

Keep Communicating, But Stay Safe.

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