John Royer, Corporate Safety Director
Can One Person Really Make a Difference?
Many times, in our lives we are faced with making a choice that may seem to go against the wishes or desires of others. When this type of choice is made, you are making a difference even though it may not seem that way at the time. I mean after all; you are just one person out of the group that chose to have a different view. Those that did not agree with your choice may express their displeasure by teasing or arguing with you. Guess what, you just made a difference. Your choice has made others either look at your decision in a different light or made them think of their choice and justify why it is better than yours. Several famous people in our country’s history have taken an individual stand to make a difference. Probably one of the most notable people in my lifetime was Dr. Martin Luther King who believed that the civil rights of citizens should apply equally to all persons based on the content of their character and not the color of their skin. This is a perfect example of how one person chose to speak out against the desires of others. So, I ask you, did he make a difference?
Right now, you might be thinking what does this article have to do with safety? The answer is simple. When you are trying to build a culture of safety in any organization, there are times when you must take an individual stand that may go against others' wishes or desires. Some people may look at you as if your choice is wrong or unnecessary. You are making a difference when this occurs whether you realize it or not. As soon as this choice is made known to others, they are now thinking about why your choice is different from theirs. This is what safety culture is all about. Making a choice that may go above and beyond what someone else wants to do for safety. Safety cultures are strong when they are fostered with integrity. Integrity is the staple that binds the culture of safety together. Integrity means doing the right thing when nobody is looking. Everything that each of us values and cherishes is kept together by having the integrity and courage to not sacrifice those values for anything.
Here is an example: If you want to save money, even though you really want what you see in the store, you refrain from purchasing it. This shows your integrity in keeping that value.
About safety at work. Do you really care if you go home safe? I would like to think that all of us would say that the answer is yes. But do you have the integrity that it takes to make that happen? Will you be the one who takes a stand to hold that value above taking the easy approach to a task that others may want to take? If you will, then you will be displaying integrity to your belief. The reality is, you cannot just say you want it and expect it to be there. It is not that people are wanting to overlook safety hazards intentionally to complete work, it just happens because they have poor time management and feel rushed. Feeling rushed or overwhelmed is why workers do not take the time to identify potential hazards for the most part. Occasionally it is because they were unaware what they did see was actually a hazard in the first place usually due to the lack of training or self-awareness.
Here is the good news. When you work as a team with a common value and belief that it is your job to make certain your team goes home safe, then the accountability of everyone is possible. We have all been taught that you are responsible for your own safety. And while that is true, I suggest displaying the integrity to view this another way. How about this, you are responsible for your teams' safety.
Example: If you are working with a crew of four co-workers, then you are responsible for those four co-workers' safety. In turn, you now have four co-workers looking out for your safety.
I think each of us would feel more comfortable knowing that we have more than just ourselves to rely on for our safekeeping. I know I sure would. How about you?
Building a team that displays the integrity to value others' safety as their own is how safety-focused companies advance to the next level. These companies have employees that identify and document near-miss events, participate in toolbox talks, make suggestions to improve conditions in the workplace, and most of all speak up when they have ideas or concerns regarding safe processes and procedures.
I hope now that you read this, it triggered your thought process and energized your approach to working safely and looking out for others' safety. If it did, then you have integrity in your DNA which means you have what it takes to make a difference. So the answer is, absolutely, one person can make a difference. Making the difference requires a commitment to your values and the integrity to never let your guard down and take a shortcut. Report things you see that are dangerous or could be a hazard to yourself or others. Correct any hazards or conditions that you may encounter if you are able to. Offer suggestions and solutions to make work procedures safer. And lastly, take an active approach to your co-workers’ safety by speaking up when you see someone working in an unsafe condition or performing an unsafe act.