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When Safety Is Pure Poetry
This is a newsletter article i wrote for our recent newsletter and wanted to share.

I visit the office of a safety friend in the construction business. Hanging on his wall is a safety poem. It’s a simple statement containing seven verses of four lines each. But within those lines lies a profound human idea: our shared obligation to each other. It’s a message worth sharing.

A Poetic Safety Message
The poem tells a safety story. It depicts the worst fears and best hopes of all who are concerned with safety. When I’m in my friend’s office and he’s on the phone or reading a memo, my eyes invariably wander up to that poem. I know it practically by heart, so reading a single line brings back the entire poem to my mind’s eye. The poem recalls carelessness, caution, fear, failure and ultimately the hope that one might make up for past sins. It never fails to move me.

I Chose to Look the Other Way
I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.
It wasn’t that I didn’t care,
I had the time, and I was there.
But I didn’t want to seem a fool,
Or argue over a safety rule.
I knew he’d done the job before,
If I called it wrong, he might get sore.
The chances didn’t seem that bad,
I’ve done the same, he knew I had.
So I shook my head and walked on by,
He knew the risks as well as I.
He took the chance, I closed an eye,
And with that act, I let him die.
I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.
Now every time I see his wife,
I’ll know I should have saved his life.
That guilt is something I must bear,
But it isn’t something you need to share.
If you see a risk that others take,
That puts their health or life at stake.
The question asked, or thing you say,
Could help them live another day.
If you see a risk and walk away,
Then I hope you never have to say,
I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.
-- By Don Merrell

Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility
It’s the simplest of stories: recognition of danger, the challenge to do right, the failure to speak, leading to fatal consequences. From failure and fatality comes the striving for redemption. In these lines Mr. Merrell touches our souls and shows what must be done. Saving life and limb is not only the job of safety experts or construction workers, but of everyone in every workplace. It goes far beyond the simple acts of observation, notification and enforcement.

Conclusion
The most vital contribution a Safety Manager can make is to instill the spirit of safety into every individual by showing workers how and why they are dependent on each other. If a single worker shirks this responsibility, it threatens us all. This is as true of an employee walking through the halls as it is of a technician at a CO. Whether the threat is a spill on the floor or a frayed wire, both workers are duty-bound to act. The poet knows we all must care enough to look, see and say the words. It’s the one kind of everyday courage that the world can’t live without.

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Comment by Ken Oswald on July 1, 2013 at 1:06pm
Thanks David
Those are great. He is talented and good way to make people think about safety. Thanks for sharing.
Ken O
Comment by David Collins on June 28, 2013 at 7:12pm

Don Merrell has written soem brillaint stuff - poetry and a few limericks. He recently gave me permission to publish them here: Don Merrell Safety Poems

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