Seeing the Big Picture: A Holistic Approach to Safety

Seeing the Big Picture: A Holistic Approach to Safety

Some say the concept of multi-tasking is an illusion – that our brains are not actually capable of doing two things at the same time.  Even the things we refer to as multi-tasking (i.e. – answering an email while writing a report and participating in a conference call) are actually short bursts of time focused on each of those tasks individually.  You are not typing your report AND typing your email at the same time, you are quickly and briefly going back and forth between the two.  As you do, your attention is diverted away from the conference call.  The human brain likes order; it likes focus; it likes one thing at a time.

Some safety professionals apply this to their work.  “We’re having a problem with compressed gas cylinders!  I’m going to go out and sweep the site for compressed gas cylinder violations!”  Meanwhile, because of their focus, they walk past improperly stored flammable liquids, three forklift drivers without licenses, a worker straddling an A-frame ladder, and a partridge in a pear tree (which, admittedly, is not a safety violation).  There is never just one problem happening.  Focusing on one at a time is like playing a game of Whack-a-Mole.  Sure you knocked one mole down, but while you did, two more popped up out of different holes.

This is why as safety professionals we need to broaden our vision.  We need to see sites as a whole and look at all of the hazards.  This could help save time and money when developing solutions because some solutions may solve multiple problems.  For instance, setting up a warning line and safety monitor may suffice when it comes to your roofers, but if that’s all you’ve done, what if you’ve got HVAC crews following them?  Now, you need a second solution because that warning line is not allowed for them.  However, had you provided rails or an anchor point for your roofers, your other workers would have been protected as well when it was their turn in the work area.

Another example might be having fall hazards and trip hazards as you access your work location near a roof edge.  You could worry about separate walkovers for the various obstacles and trip hazards, and rails or fall arrest systems to mitigate the fall hazard at the roof’s edge, or you could use a safety access platform that protects against both.  How?  Well, the platform can be customized to any shape or size you need so that one solution allows you to walk safely over all obstacles.  At the same time, this platform has attached rails that meet the OSHA requirements for fall protection in strength and height.  Safe access and fall protection solved in one fell swoop.  Added bonus?  This platform, depending on what your workers are doing, could allow for a more ergonomic working position by eliminating the need for stretching and reaching.

This type of thing happens constantly. No hazard exists on its own.  Spend a few minutes thinking about one and you are bound to notice a handful of other related hazards.  Looking at your roof or work surface with a customizable work access platform in mind may actually open your mind to solutions you had not previously considered.  Those things that seemed impossible or too costly before may be viewed in a whole different light.  In fact, it could save your company additional money by protecting the roof membrane from the wear and tear of constant foot traffic.

One aspect of looking at the bigger picture is to understand what is not only happening now, but also in the future in the same work location.  Many solutions are temporary – made to be stripped down and removed at the end of the project, but temporary access platforms can be permanent.  Chances are, if you’re working there now, you’ll have to work there again one day.  Your solution to multiple issues just solved many more by staying in place for all future work in that area.  One cost, one install, one solution.

Start broadening your vision.  Stop being in a rush to come up with the quickest solution because the quickest isn’t always the best.  Stop reacting to problems and start planning for them.  Look at all of the technology available today, such as customizable access platforms, and come up with the best solution possible.  Your workers will be safe and your employers will be happy.

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