By Bill Dampf, C.S.P.
Since I retired, I felt it was important to make up for all the time I was away from home by spending more time with my wife. Looking for those opportunities, one of the less pleasant chores I felt I should participate in was her weekly grocery shopping. It took only two trips for my wife to tell me she didn't want me with her. It seemed that I hovered and put pressure on her to get this task done quickly. I apparently cramped her style. Being unaware of this but always wanting to please her, I agreed that grocery shopping was all hers.
By participating in this shopping experience, I took notice of everyone's focus on price. Every shopper was making decisions on what they were willing to pay to have something they needed or simply wanted. Brands were compared and the need was assessed before a final decision was made on what to buy.
For example, several times my wife would ask me if I wanted a particular item. I would initially think yes. But, when I looked at the price, I was surprised at how much it would cost--and ultimately I determined it wasn’t worth it.
As I thought of this experience, I realized how we place a price on nearly everything we do. It could be a monetary cost or an emotional one. Our personal safety is no different, but we very seldom realize or acknowledge what the cost could be.
As I write this blog, we have to accept that according to OSHA, 12 people will lose their lives to workplace accidents today. Twelve people will pay the ultimate price for their actions. Those 12 people evaluated a risk, accepted that risk and lost everything.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the hazards we were exposed to had a price tag on them? For instance:
- Working with an unguarded machine: Cost--four fingers;
- Grinding without eye protection: Cost--blind for the rest of your life;
- Lifting a heavy load improperly or without help: Cost--spinal fusion and lifelong pain;
- Not wearing a seat belt: Cost--your life;
- Working with an ungrounded circuit: Cost--your life; and
- Entering a straight wall trench: Cost--your life.
All of the risks we choose to accept have a potential cost. The good news is that most risks we accept don't require payment because the accident doesn't occur. We tend to believe that it won’t happen to me. But, for many in the workplace, it does happen and the costs are great.
We also have to realize how the cost extends beyond ourselves. It impacts all those we love and care about. It's the graduations, births, weddings and dinners we will not attend, the hugs we will not give or receive, or the joy and happiness we will not experience.
Help your workers realize the potential cost of accepting risk. Go to the field or in the plant and take pictures of the many hazards they are exposed to and share them at an upcoming safety meeting. Have them discuss the potential cost of failing to protect each other from those risks. Help them realize that it's a price not worth paying.
Bill Dampf is the retired Director of Corporate Safety and Health for a Midwest electric and natural gas utility. He has been in the safety profession for 36 years and an international speaker for 15. He acquired his BS degree and Masters degree in Industrial Safety, is a Certified Safety Professional and published author.