How Adaptable is your Safety Program?

In a small city on the Atlantic Ocean, the aftermath of hurricane Dorian changed the streetscape. Toppled trees blocked the roads and their root systems pulled up sidewalk pavers. Houses and buildings were damaged. You may have seen news footage of a construction crane that blew down in the wind and twisted itself around the building it was helping to construct. 

In a city park, a place for flowers and ducks and tourists, a blue heron appeared. The bird was likely a blow-in, meaning that it could have been caught in the storm somewhere off the coast of Virginia and traveled hundreds of miles with the storm. It may have sought refuge in the Public Gardens exhausted and storm-tossed. The large bird stayed in the park for weeks after the storm, until it was strong enough to fly away. Maybe it flew back to its old life, or maybe it started a new one; we’ll never know. We can be sure that the bird’s life was forever changed by that storm. 

Have you ever suffered an accident at work that changed everything? Maybe a piece of equipment was damaged and that messed up the schedule by a week. Maybe someone lost a finger, which messed up the rest of a life. How did you react? How did your crew react? After the shock of the incident and the discussions about safety, did everything go back to how it was? If the accident was small, it’s likely that it was soon forgotten. But forgetting about an accident, whether large or small, is a big mistake. 

Set aside time to review all accidents and injuries that have occurred this year. Look for patterns. Review the company’s safety policies that should have prevented each of the accidents and try to figure out what went wrong. Don’t dismiss the thorough investigation of an accident simply because nobody was badly hurt. 

A month after hurricane Dorian, the blue heron has moved on, but that crane that collapsed and wrapped itself around the building? It’s still there. Since the block the building sits on has been evacuated, shopkeepers can’t get to work, lawyers can’t access briefs, bartenders can’t sell beer and regular folks can’t go home to their apartments. Meanwhile engineers and insurance adjusters still haven’t figured out what to do about the crane and how to safely dismantle it. 

What can you do today that will help prevent small and large accidents? We can’t change the weather, so preventing that tower crane collapse probably wasn’t possible. But we can change bad habits, poor work practices, and hazardous situations—we can prevent accidents.