Ready To Meet the Unexpected?

Preparation Can Keep Your Workplace Safe

By Mike Burk

I recently found an article written by Lester G. Herbert titled “Meeting the Unexpected.” The subtitle is “There Are Many Things That We Should and Could Do to Prepare for Emergencies.” Like many people in our industry, I am always on the look-out for different ways to convey safety messages to our workforce.I thought that I had found another opportunity. Digging deeper into the article, I realized that Herbert was concerned about business emergencies such as sales, production and competition rather than physical injuries or safety emergencies.

Reviewing the article again, I found that Herbert’s advice for business emergencies could also be applied to safety in the manufacturing environment. He writes that “life is bound to bring us much that is unexpected. In these testing times which determine the mettle of the mind, even the most casual of individuals can do pretty well if he has plenty of time to get ready and get everything set.”

Be Prepared

In our automated, fast-paced manufacturing world, there is much that is unexpected, and “even the most casual of individuals” can survive if they have the time to get ready. The problem is that with workplace accidents, there is no time to get everything set. The casual individuals mentioned by Herbert might be the new worker with little factory experience, the assembler who is unfamiliar with the personal protective equipment required for the job, the visitor who is unfamiliar with aisles and emergency evacuation, or the worker who just doesn’t care. For their own safety, we need to change these employees from casual individuals to mentally wide-awake, attentive workers. As Herbert writes, “What is even more important is the ability to be mentally wide awake: that is, clear sighted, resourceful, adapt-able, able to bring oneself instantly to the point of attention or to obey the orders from within.”

Herbert continues: “There are people who seem to have the courage and the judgment always on tap to do the right thing at the right moment—but these are few and far between.” These are the leaders on the production floor whom other workers follow and yes, they are “few and far between.” We know who these workers are in our facilities. These people stand out and routinely take charge in unexpected situations. Seek out these associates and make them the leaders and partners of your safety training program.

Herbert is not very politically correct when he writes “in business life today, moments count. Such mental agility does not come through fat ways of living and thinking, but rather as a result of sufficient sleep, simple living, and concentration.”

As employers, we must watch for workers who, because of their “fat ways of living and thinking,” may not be capable of doing their job safely. You need to watch and take action when workers appear tired, hung over, stressed or impaired by legal or illegal drugs or prescription medications. In addition, as employers, you must establish procedures to compensate for extreme temperatures, extended shifts or any condition that might cause additional fatigue.

Still Relevant

By now you may have realized that Herbert’s article and comments were published a very long time ago. This article appeared nearly 100 years ago in the February 10, 1921 issue of The Pottery, Glass and Brass Salesman. But amazingly, his comments and advice ring very true today.

Herbert closes by writing: “The athlete never knows what will meet him, yet he is training for weeks and months to be ready for the unexpected. That is what your life and mine must be—a training ground—in order that we shall not be tripped up, surprised or blinded.” Your manufacturing associates are the athletes of your facility. Just like the athlete Herbert describes, they must live a life in a safety “training ground,” not just for weeks and months as he writes, but continually, so that no one is “tripped, surprised or blinded.” As he expressed so many years ago, “We can and we should get ready for the unexpected.”

Mike Burk is the North American technical representative for Sparklike.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

DWM Magazine

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