Avoid Safety Atrophy -- Keep Moving

Atrophy has been defined as the gradual decline in effectiveness or vigor due to underuse or neglect, and our safety processes must be protected from atrophy if we are to remain safe on the job.

By: Bill Dampf, C.S.P., Let’s Talk Success Presentation

As some of you know, my medical history is one that no one would desire. I’ve moved from cancer patient, to cancer survivor and now back to patient again. Those of you who have faced these challenges, or who have loved ones who have, know how difficult these trials can be both physically and emotionally.

One thing I have learned through this process is that I have to prevent my body from something known as atrophy. Atrophy has been defined as the gradual decline in effectiveness or vigor due to underuse or neglect. My way of combating this can be summed up in four simple words: “I must keep moving.”

I must continue to live a quality life that involves both physical and mental exercise. I must contribute to improving the lives of those around me. I must read more, write more and walk more. I must keep moving. You see, if I decide to simply ride my illness out and sit on the couch, my body will lose its energy and strength. My muscles will weaken. My mind will become lazy.

As I thought about this I realized that our safety processes must be protected from atrophy as well. If we simply wish to ride on initial momentum, our progress will eventually slow. It will lose its energy. Our workers will become less engaged and grow complacent. We will simply find ourselves playing catch up, looking for ways to re-energize our process. For this reason, the same four words are very important when it comes to sustaining a successful safety process. “We must keep moving.”

If you are looking for ways to keep our safety systems fresh and healthy in your workplace, try these ideas.
• Increase your time in the field. Get out from behind your desks and go where the work is, realizing that accidents don’t happen within a paper wads toss of our trash can.
• Make safety a subject of constant conversation.
• Select a specific area of risk to focus on during the month. Review the safety rules that apply to this risk at your weekly safety meetings.
• Periodically meet with a few of your workers and discuss their views on where safety can be improved.
• Urge your workforce to make suggestions and find ways to make them laugh.

A wise person once told me that we are either moving forward or backward, but we are never the same as we were. The processes we have put in place to protect our workers are no different. They are either getting stronger or weaker, but they are not the same as they were yesterday. What are you doing today to ensure that your safety processes are moving forward?

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 has acquired both his BS degree and Masters degree in Industrial Safety, is a Certified Safety Professional and published author. Visit his website at www.ltspresentations.com.

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