The Human Side of Safety

The Human Side of Safety

Dan Hannan

Dan Hannan

CSP

Mr. Hannan has been an EHS professional for 24 years and a subject matter expert for Vivid for four years.  Mr. Hannan is Safety Officer at Merjent, Inc. in Minneapolis, MN and is also the Chairman of the National Safety Council’s Safe Communities Division.  Mr. Hannan is an accomplished trainer and presenter on the topic of off-the-job safety.  Feel free to contact Dan at dhannan@merjent.com.

The knock on the front door was much harder and faster than typical for a visitor. 

“I think your garage is on fire” blurted the home owner’s neighbor when he opened the door.  Running through his house, the owner opened the service door to the garage and confirmed that his garage was indeed on fire. Alerting the rest of the family to exit, he called out to his wife to grab the cordless phone and dial 911 from outside. He then ran back through the house to make sure the two service doors were shut all the way, hoping their 30 minute fire rating would contain the fire to just the garage.  It helped but not as much as hoped.

Fortunately the fire came the day after Christmas rather than before. Too bad the house couldn’t be saved. Displaced, his family had to find a place to live for months while the insurance claim got settled and they decided how and where to start over. The children were the most put-out—a new temporary home, a new way to school, and a new routine for daily living.

This true story is about a safety director that applied his on-the-job knowledge to his home life to keep himself and his family safe.  A fire drill, exit routes, fire extinguisher, smoke alarms…they were all in place. No loss of life, only some tears, replaceable objects and some inconvenience. Reflecting on the loss of his home he concluded that it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day details of safety—compliance programs, safety inspections, policies, procedures, insurance premiums, disciplinary actions, etc.

The Human Side of Safety

It’s easy to forget about what’s at the core of safety and why we are constantly trying to improve. Our focus is too often on the business side of safety and not the human side. Leaving the job healthy and in one piece every day means we’ve earned the right to go home to our family and friends.  Returning safely to our job the next day means we’ve earned the right to maintain our livelihood.  We need to work and our family needs us.  Both are inextricably linked and dependant on us staying safe.

Asking someone if they want to be safe at work and go home unharmed all would say “yes.” Unfortunately “to err is human” and we all make mistakes.  Poor decisions at the wrong time can spell disaster with life altering consequences.  To keep our mind straight and focused on why we need safety we must continually remember what’s at stake and who stands to lose the most—those that care about us.  We cannot afford to get complacent and satisfied with our safety performance and the driving factor shouldn’t be about a lower EMR, insurance costs, or incident rates—those are just the products of our effort.

What is safety all about?  You’ve probably seen or heard the following tag lines that boil it down to its simplest form:

  • Do the right thing
  • I’ve got your back, you’ve got mine
  • Later might be too late
  • There’s never a wrong time to do the right thing

If a person’s safety values are cultivated in the right way the directive is very clear—we must care about the wellbeing of everyone we work with. A team approach to safety where a sense of combined responsibility or interdependence is created ensures success.

Your Personal Safety Challenge

To that end, one of the most powerful motivators to be safety-minded every day is to make your mission personal. Tape the following message to your bathroom mirror, dashboard of your car, work locker or under your hardhat.  Read it at least once a day while on the job.

“Today is the most important day for me to be safe because _______.”  Fill in the blank with your own personal reason.  Mine have included:

“…I’m taking my daughter to gymnastic class tonight.”
“…I’m going on a vacation this weekend with my family.”
“…I’m hosting a party tonight and everyone will be mad if I get hurt and have to cancel it.”

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