Long Island Scrap Metal

Safety: It's More Than Common Sense; It's an Attitude

By Charles Keeling, Safety Director

From time to time, we have all seen the news about a worker or a resident, who was injured or killed at home or on the job. Some of these reports state that the person is "lucky” to be alive after an incident, but is he really? It’s a question that is sometimes hard to answer.

Luck should not play a part in any safety equation. Luck is defined as "when preparation meets opportunity.” If you fail to prepare for safety, there will eventually be consequences for your unsafe actions — maybe even catastrophic consequences.

Sometimes, people act unsafely because they simply don’t know any better. Other times, people exhibit a lack of a safety mindset because of their lack of knowledge; it's the old adage "it’s what you don’t know that can hurt you.”

Then there are those individuals who display a risky attitude — the challenge of how long they can go without getting caught or injured.

In my experience, there is a direct correlation between those individuals who fail to perceive potential risks and injure themselves at work, and those who get injured off the job.

Excuses are ample and even creative at times as to why people generally do not take personal safety precautions to avoid injuries and death. I have had experiences with people who believe that safety precautions are not necessary because safety is inconvenient and that it takes unnecessary additional time, especially when time constraints are upon them. I’ve met people who just don’t perceive the risks or potential dangers presented to them. Still, others simply refuse to ask for assistance in order to avoid embarrassment, or for fear of not meeting expectations in their job performance. Others, still, may have a sense of cultural pride of wanting to be superior, will avoid showing what they consider signs of weakness, and therefore attempt to perform tasks in an unsafe manner and take the chance.

I preach to Gershow employees that no job requires shortcuts. I’ve pointed out that law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel must calculate and implement safe work practices under situations of duress and danger. Whether their activities are apprehending a suspect, extricating a trapped victim, extinguishing a fire or providing life-saving medical procedures, they routinely follow protocols to minimize the risk of personal injury to themselves or their co-workers. If emergency workers can take safety precautions in the heat of an emergency, we can do it during a regular work day or off the job.

I accept no excuses as to why employees cannot implement all available safety precautions as they have been instructed. I emphasize that, if you don’t know, ask first.

The first step in taking absolute responsibility for personal safety is to wear the required personal protective equipment provided. The second step is to properly prepare for a work procedure by obtaining the necessary safety and work equipment, and reviewing the necessary safety procedures to follow. If an employee is unsure as to what is required, he needs to reach out for assistance and not take a chance that can cost him an injury.

The third step is to follow safe work procedures for the tasks at hand. Shortcuts are not part of anyone’s equation for a safe workplace. Employees must take personal responsibility to ensure that safeguards are in place, that machinery is working properly, that tools and equipment are serviceable, and that they are used correctly as designed and that chemicals are used correctly as intended.

People should follow the same attitude about personal safety when performing tasks at home. Whether repairing their vehicle or lawn equipment, carrying out home improvement activities like woodworking, electrical work, plumbing, painting, and pressure washing, or installing holiday lights and ornaments, safe work conditions should always be established and followed.

Read and follow the instructions provided with tools, equipment, material and chemicals. Manufacturers will often recommend the proper safety equipment to use with their product, and they will certainly provide instructions on how to use the product correctly.

Make sure safeguards on machines are installed and functioning as designed, disconnect the spark plug from lawn equipment or remove an ignition key. Additionally, people need to exhibit proper use of a ladder, correctly block a vehicle to prevent movement before you climb underneath, turn off electric and water, and ensure adequate ventilation when using chemicals with harmful vapors.

Before you tackle a home or work project, plan the job by having the right tools and safety equipment on hand. Think about your personal safety plan when budgeting for a project. Think about getting the help of family, friends and equipment when heavy lifting is involved. As Dirty Harry says, "A man’s got to know his limitations.”

If you’re not in the business of saving lives, no job is worth risking yours. If you have questions, ask them. If you need help, seek it.

If you can’t do the job safely, don’t do it at all.