Safety has become a really overused word. It is used, abused, and applied to all manner of things, but in our workplace I wonder if we really understand what we mean by safety. When you ask for safety in your workplace what do you expect; and is the safety you get anything close to what you wanted?
The problem is that we have many layers of safety in our industry. We operate under a National Safety Code and we must hold a valid Safety Certificate to operate. On the shelf somewhere is the safety plan we needed to be compliant, and outside of the hours of service pretty much everything deals with equipment, not the person doing the work.
Unfortunately, none of these has anything to do with making sure your workers are not going to get hurt while trying to do the job. So often it’s the simple things that have big consequences. For example, a report on general trucking in BC found that falls from elevation from 2007-2011 resulted in an average of over seventeen-thousand days lost per year. Yes, that is thousands. Obviously falling is a job hazard, and employers are responsible for orienting and training workers to deal with it correctly, and this is just one aspect of occupational safety.
In the big picture, as a safety professional, I am concerned with losses. First and most important of course is the prevention of injuries, but loss also means preventing damages to equipment, cargo, and facilities. These are all things that affect the bottom line, your capacity to do work, and even your reputation. Not being able to complete a delivery because you have a guy off with a shoulder injury is quite possibly worse for business than not getting that job in the first place.
So when we say safety are we talking about the truck or the person operating it? You know, the one who has to crawl underneath or on top dragging tools, chains, tarps or binders. The one who puts out triangles and flares and then tries to get things going while running along the side of a busy road. Have we spent the time to locate those dangers, and inform our workers on how to deal with them in a safe manner?
A proper understanding of what we mean when we discuss safety—that it is more than just a buzzword; that it can refer to both people and equipment, and have implications both tangible and intangible; that it affects our industry at all levels and in ways that are sometimes surprising—can help us to get out of an all too common rut when thinking about it. Too often we are set in our ways with safety, doing things one way because that is the way they’ve always been done. With our industry’s capacity for innovation, however, we should be able to come up with fresh ways of looking at such an important and far-reaching topic. We can improve on safety and make it just another part of our everyday business.
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