Since you were young enough and brash enough to decide that you didn’t need to follow the rules, you’ve heard them all.
“Don’t jaywalk, never swallow chewing gum and most importantly, don’t ever wear white after Labor Day.”
From spiders in your stomach to stray barbecue stains that would never come out, somebody always had your best interest at heart, even if it didn’t always seem that way.
The workplace is no different. Safety, no matter the industry, is still king but the highly respected words of warning don’t always come from the most reliable sources.
Whatever the job, there are certain strands of bad advice, some unreliable truths, that have stuck around a lot longer than they should have.
Some traditions don’t always die easy.
Today, we’ll be looking to debunk some of these long-standing myths, from workplace safety, protection follies and everything else in between.
“Don’t worry, Bigfoot. You’re safe. For now.”
Myth One: “We Can’t Be 100% Safe”
This one seems obvious, right? You can’t eliminate all risk, so why even bother trying to stop anything at all?
Since the assembly line was first rolled out and metal was being turned into automotive magic, the question has been asked.
“If you can do it right and do it well, why would you want to do it safer? And slower?”
It is impossible to anticipate everything but when accidents do happen, it is best to be the one prepared.
That being said, it can be difficult to communicate this message to
more resistant, stubborn employees.
Well, hopefully not this stubborn.
Oftentimes, it comes down to the approach: a buy-in at all levels.
Injury prevention culture is now a major piece of the modern workplace’s identity, more so than ever before. The key is to transfer those values from paper into practice.
If your workplace happens to carry the possibility of serious injury, the best atmosphere is one that doesn’t call out the individual in the face of a mistake, but instead, embraces a “team first” mentality.
It isn’t perfect but as we’ve covered before, when it comes to workplace safety, there should be no corners cut.
What is best for the team is best for you. First and foremost, that starts with personal protection equipment.
If you’re wearing PPE to keep yourself safe, not because you’ve been told to, you’ll be more inclined to keep it on and eventually, everyone else will follow your lead.
It really is that simple.
Myth Two: “You Can’t Fix Stupid”
Well, yes, you can but that mindset won’t help.
Humans, for all our technological progress in the last century or so, still do have something of a reckless streak when it comes to innovation. If we’re not careful, however, we can put countless lives at risk.
When looking to curb irresponsibility in the workplace, the best course of action often follows the lead of our personal safety guidelines. Personal accountability for the betterment of the group.
Mistakes, like injuries and sunsets, happen and sometimes, without warning.
Even minor slip-ups in high pressure situations, such as work on an oil rig can not only cost time and manpower but disrupt productivity as well, causing delays and set schedules back days, even weeks. These situations, often, can act as learning experiences, knowledge gained in the worst possible way, only to be passed down later.
Yet, this isn’t always the case.
If a new employee or a co-worker finds themselves struggling with the fundamentals of specific workplace safety, it never hurts to provide a little push in the right direction or to take the time to re-discuss rules and guidelines.
If they’re arriving fresh from a different industry or for whatever reason, didn’t have the benefit of in-depth training, do your part. Don’t leave them in the dark.
Myth Three: “Older Workers Get Hurt More Often”
This one seems straightforward. The older you get, the more at risk you are for workplace injuries and hazards, more specifically, falls and trips. Simply put, this isn’t true.
Older workers, generally, have the benefit of experience on their side and many years, perhaps decades, of familiarity with proper safety practices and workplace conditions. This can give them a significant leg up on younger workers.
That being said, if older workers do end up getting injured, they’re more likely to end up with a severe injury and take that much longer to heal and heal effectively.
There are many ways to combat this, from establishing a job rotation strategy, to bringing forth an injury prevention program and making it mandatory for all workers.
Falls, trips and slips are the most commonly reported causes of injuries for workers over 50, with fractures and even brain trauma being reported in some cases.
When it comes to older workers, their experience and knowledge can be invaluable when looking to train new employees and provide insight into the inner workings of a business, in addition to their contributions elsewhere.
For supervisors and co-workers alike, it is important to make sure that older workers don’t get lost in the shuffle.
Myth Four: “If You’re Wearing Your Safety Gear, You’re Safe”
Consider this. It’s wet, it’s cold, it’s raining, your work week has finally come to an end and you have someplace to be.
“Out of the rain, ideally.”
Desperate and wanting to keep your hair dry, you grab two umbrellas from the rack, filling up your umbrella quota in the process.
Problem is, by the time you make it to the car, you’re soaked right through. Two umbrellas, three, doesn’t matter, your hair is going to need another comb through before that Friday night out. You can’t stop the rain.
Safety, as we’ve discussed, follows the same basic principle. Wearing your PPE improperly or excessively can be just as bad, if not worse, as wearing nothing at all.
When working in potentially unsafe, PPE mandatory environments, it is imperative that you read and follow the instructions provided with your PPE, in addition to any rules put forth by your employer.
Wearing an extra pair of gloves, for example, can limit dexterity and fluidity of motion, in areas where a lack of those functions could limit one’s success in any given task and put their safety at risk.
This is a critical part of training that could very well go overlooked.
Give new workers the space to develop and grow but make sure they’re not overdoing their adherence to safety. It can put far too many people in hot water.
Myth Five: “Common Sense Will Always Win Out”
By now, it should be clear that the right and wrongs of safety aren’t easy to define.
There is a lot of overlap, more so, when it comes to protocols and workplace guidelines. Things can change from company to company, from industry to industry.
However, the one thing that always stays the same, the one thing that will always win out will be common sense. Right?
Not always. When a worker becomes acclimatized to their work environment, familiar with PPE and possible dangers to the point where they have become second nature, they can fall into a false sense of complacency.
With this comes the possibly for more advanced accidents, putting more faith in experience and supposed expertise than in the measures designed to keep people safe.
If those measures fail, it is this worker who may pose the greatest risk. Common sense may tell you to grab the fire extinguisher but it’s no help stopping a fire if it happens to be empty. The same rule applies here.
The easiest, most convenient course of action may not always be the best one. Sometimes, you just might have to ignore your common sense and think outside the box.
The best part about safety is doing it right.
Safety shouldn’t be an unreachable goal, something achievable only in training videos. Safety should be the set standard; the way business is conducted. Period.
Remember, there is no simple way to stop all accidents but by planning ahead, the preventable can be avoided.
Safety isn’t easy. It shouldn’t be ignored, either.
Safety should be a key component of any workplace
Check out our Complete Guide To Personal Protection Equipment