I have been in the field of health and safety for more than 25 years now. Prior to that, I spent three years working as a union laborer and saw many bad things happen. As a result, I got into safety to prevent unnecessary pain and suffering to people who were asked to do stupid things or chose to on their own.
I have spoken with many injured workers over my career in safety. Some have dedicated their lives to tell their stories to prevent others from experiencing the same events. The one commonality that I find in all their stories is that they did not think it would happen to them. I cannot tell you how many times I have addressed an unsafe act by a worker only to be told that they know what they are doing, have been doing it that way for a long time and that I did not need to worry because accidents don’t happen to them.
This is crap. Do you think that the 5000+ workers who die on the job each year in the United States went to work the day that they died and thought, this is the day that it will happen to me? Of course, they didn’t.
Now in the middle of a brutal pandemic, we are seeing the same exact scenario play out. People don’t think that it will happen to them, so they choose not to take the available precautions to protect themselves. I hear the same story over and over. Someone infected with COVID-19 in the ICU begs to be immunized only to be told that it is too late. Most lose their battle with the virus shortly after and many leave a family behind.
This is needless loss of life and we have been seeing it for years. As safety professionals, how do we save people from themselves? If I can offer one piece of advice, it would be this. Don’t give up or walk away frustrated, but rather make it personal. Tell the person that you care about them as a human being, relay a story that they can relate to and encourage them to look at things differently, maybe beyond themselves and considering those people around them who love them.
We are leaders, and leaders lead. Giving up is not leading, so go do what you can to make a difference.