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Let's Be Careful Out There

Remember the television series, “Hill Street Blues,” where during the daily roll-call meeting the last thing the sergeant would say to the officers is “And … hey, let’s be careful out there!”?

Pat Stark

Pat Stark, CHST, PCC, PCG
Safety and Health Consultant

I think of that scene often, particularly when listening to top managers, middle managers, supervisors or designated safety personnel describe that they want all of their workers to leave work the same way they came to work that day (except maybe a little more tired leaving than when they came to work!).

Frequently, I visit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website (www.osha.gov) to remain in-tune with what OSHA is doing, what they are finding and recording, etc. During a recent website visit, I reviewed the Weekly Fatality/Catastrophe Report of reported fatalities around the nation. One particular weekly summary from last year was particularly discouraging: A total of 25 fatalities were tabulated that week alone and, of those, six occurred in Florida. So, 24% of the nation’s reported occupational fatalities occurred in Florida in one week!

I thought of the Hill Street Blues’ sarge’s careful message, and of the owners, managers and supervisors I speak to. Did anyone say to these now-deceased persons sometime during that fateful day anything like: “Hey, be careful out there!”? Would it have mattered? What kind of active, meaningful occupational safety process—injury illness prevention plan—did these companies have? Apparently something failed.

In researching the causes of the six Florida deaths, the potential cause(s) included: fall-related, struck-by/crushed-related, and possible heart attack. Three of the six deaths were fall-related. Two deaths were struck-by/crushed-related, and one was a possible heart attack. The three fall-related deaths appeared to have happened during construction-type activity, underscoring what OSHA has been finding for numerous years--that falls are one of the leading cause(s) of construction-related fatalities.

But, for a few seconds, let’s forget about OSHA, workers’ compensation, profit loss, or any other statistic. Let’s, for a moment, consider being one of the following of the now-deceased: A loved one or spouse, a co-worker, a supervisor / manager, or co-worker, friend, or drinking buddy. Where are we now? What are our thoughts post-incident? For the loved one or spouse: How do we handle this massive loss, how do we go on and care for the children, the finances, the house—how do we deal with the empty side of the bed? If we’re the co-worker or friend, do we go to work just like we do every day? Are we angry at the company, angry at the boss for not doing enough, angry at our dead co-worker/friend for not doing enough, angry at ourselves for not doing enough? If we’re the deceased’s owner, manager or supervisor, do we comfort his or her relatives, or do we follow the advice of our legal counsel, which might be to stay away from the family? Do we strive to find the root cause(s) of this tragic incident so that we might prevent this from ever happening again? Where are we?

There’s no way to easily tackle any of these and countless more questions and thoughts until they truly occur in our own lives. Let’s not only be careful out there, but let us all do what is within our power, within our positions and roles, to prevent such incidents from being part of our lives.

Prevention can begin with an on-site consultation. Request yours today by visiting www.usfsafetyflorida.com.

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