Who Wants to Go Home Tonight?

This guest post comes from Safety Advocate and Keynote Speaker, Laurel Youngstrom. She and her husband Russ travel the country inspiring people to improve their attention to workplace safety.

Who Wants to Go Home Tonight?

Seems like a simple question with a simple answer, doesn't it? However, many times, our actions seem to tell a different story. My husband, Russ, went to work one morning, and came home three months later...a paraplegic. That was eighteen years ago, and there is nothing we do today, that is exactly the same as how we did it in 1995. How many minutes of your workday do you spend thinking  about your family? After all, they are the reason you work, aren't they? What would it do to them if something happened to you? Our son, Spencer, was two at the time,  and doesn't ever remember seeing his dad walk. He endured relentless teasing throughout his childhood, because of his dad's disability.

Have you considered the fact that being unsafe is selfish?

Your safety director can give you all of the equipment and training you need, to accomplish a task safely, but when it comes down to that split-second decision whether to work safe or not, you are the only one that can make that call. My husband  walked down the last set of stairs  he would ever set foot on, after having just had a "fall protection" meeting. He proceeded to unhook his harness, and fell to the concrete, thirty feet below. Why pay attention during safety meetings?  Why practice personal accountability? So you can wrestle with your kid brother, run on the beach with your grand kids, play football with your son, hang Christmas lights for your girlfriend, walk your daughter down the aisle (we would have loved to have had a daughter )... 

Safety directors are not there to cramp your style, slow you down, or "catch you" doing something wrong. They are there to ensure that your wife does not get an urgent phone call from the trauma unit.  I got that phone call, and drove myself to the hospital, not even knowing if, by the time I arrived, my husband would still be alive.

Please don't make the same mistake Russ did. There are several things you can do to help ensure that you go home at the end of the day.

  • Scan your immediate surroundings (above, below, in front of, on either side of, and behind your workplace) to identify potential hazards.
  • Wear your PPE (goggles, earplugs,  gloves, hard hat, steel-toed boots, etc.) 
  • Pay attention to those around you, and encourage them to follow safety rules (Russ had ignored a co-worker's warning, moments before the fall).
  • Report near misses, and those who cause them. (You may be saving their life!)
  • Tie off any place where it is required, even if it seems unnecessary. 
  • If you have a question, slow down, and take two minutes to ask a supervisor. Bulldozing ahead with an assumption could cost the job two days or more, if there is a serious injury (as was the case in Russ' accident.) Russ and I now travel the country, sharing our message, with the hope that just one listener from each audience will remember us, and think twice before doing something unsafe.

There are reasons for every safety rule on your site. Please obey all of them. If not for you, for those who love you, and want to see you walk through that front door tonight.


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