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“Why can’t employees just work safe?”

Managers and supervisors often don’t know or have forgotten how hard it is to incorporate safe work practices into the job. Sure, it’s easy for a manager or supervisor to put on a hard hat, safety glasses, and ear protection. But what about the workers who have to deal with fall protection, working around heavy equipment, working in tight spaces in tunnels and confined spaces? Sometimes working safe can be downright hard!


A Common Complaint!

One of the common complaints of employees when it comes to safety is that their bosses don’t understand the safe work practices or what it takes to apply the WSIP or CAL-OSHA safety rules. That complaint may very well be a good observation. Even when a supervisor has been promoted from within the ranks, he or she may have forgotten how difficult it can be to work while wearing personal protective equipment or using other types of protection. Sometimes supervisors and managers don’t realize that it takes time to be safe. With some types of work, applying safety measures to a job takes more time than performing the work itself. So when employees say their bosses “just don’t get it,” they may be absolutely correct. Listen to them with an open mind!


Take This Challenge!

If you are a supervisor or manager, you may need to get a different perspective on just how hard it is to work safe. Here’s a challenge that might help you. For the next 30 days, drive the speed limit. That’s right – drive the speed limit, not one or two miles over the limit. Don’t follow that old adage that “the Local police or the CHP won’t stop me if I’m going five miles over the limit.” Drive the speed limit. Notice how hard it is. You’ll probably find all kinds of excuses why you can’t. Things like “I have to drive with the flow of the traffic” or “I’m in a hurry, a few miles over the limit won’t matter.” Be aware of those kinds of thoughts running through your head. Then share those with your work group. Let them know it is tough to always work safe.


A Positive Perspective!

Sure, it’s tough to work safe sometimes. It can be uncomfortable and time consuming. But, the safety measures and practices in most workplaces today are the result of learning from others’ injuries and fatalities. Here are some things you can do to promote a “positive perspective” when it comes to safety:

1. When you hear employees or fellow workers complain about how hard it is to work safe, take time to listen.
Maybe the complaints are valid and maybe they aren’t. Yet, if you’ll listen, you may learn some things you can do to create a more positive safety culture.

2. Learn everything you can about our “WSIP” program.
Find out why certain work practices and regulations are in place. It will help you and others understand why it’s so important to follow the safety rules. Take advantage of all the safety training you can get. Actually hold “tail gate meetings” with your crews before the job and get there input! Listen to what they have to say and even implement there ideas. This will “enlist” a “team effort”, as well as make the crew have a say in the job! I have personally seen this tactic work very well!

3. Take the time to help others understand why the rules are in place.
We as a work force find “change” difficult at best! New rules are hard to implement and follow. As supervisors and managers, we should take the time to read and understand our SOP regulations. If we don’t understand, ask!

Tough, but not Impossible

No one will argue that sometimes it’s tough to get a job done with all the safety measures that have to be taken. Just remember, that OSHA regulations were made as a result of injuries and fatalities and The “Water System Improvement Program” (WSIP) is there for a reason: to keep you safe. Do what you can to create a workplace where no one gets hurt environment! That’s a goal everyone can live with.


Rick Wakefield, CMSP CSE
RSM Bay Division
AECOM/SFPUC


Mobile: (408) 914-1394
rwakefield@sfwater.org

“NO SAFETY, NO LIFE”

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