LOOTing to Stay Safe

Assuming you came expecting some grand pontification on the egregious tradition of looting public funds, let me extend an apology for the unexpected deception. This is an article about staying safe at work. Now that I have been forgiven, I hope you would learn a thing or two from the following paragraphs.

This article stemmed from a safety briefing I delivered to a group of work colleagues. I had chosen a topic: “Risk Myths & Your Safety”, and wanted to structure my PowerPoint presentation to yield maximum effect. Achieving this required a blend of some existing knowledge about occupational health and safety, additional research, and my management consulting experience.

We begin by considering a fundamental question. Who is ultimately responsible for your safety at work?

Your employer may be directly and vicariously responsible for your safety, but ultimately, the buck stops at your table. As Kina Repp would assert: “You are your last line of defence. It boils down to you”.

I came across an interesting survey by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) which showed that 88% of polled HSE professionals stated that workers consider safety important, yet 51% of the same professionals agreed that workers’ attitude is a major barrier to workplace safety. How can workers consider safety important yet contribute to an unsafe workplace? I tried to rationalise the seeming discrepancy by focusing on five myths that I believe are contributing to unsafe practices by employees.

Myth #1: The Doubting Thomas: “There is no risk here!”

This employee takes no action because he cannot understand that there are hazards associated with a given workplace, process or operation.

Myth #2: The Invincible: “I know it is risky, but it cannot affect me!”

In Nigerian parlance, this employee belongs to the “It’s not my portion” congress. She sees the risk but believes her case is different; yet when disaster strikes, she may blame “village people” as being after her.

Myth #3: The Nerdy Believer: “I am safe because engineering controls are ultimately adequate to protect me!”

This employee sees the latest safety devices installed and believes this means he has nothing to worry about, forgetting that 100% reliability is usually an illusion.

Myth #4: The Humanist: “I am safe because my colleagues will always obey safety regulations!”

This employee is confident in her colleagues following the rules, whereas examples abound of safety incidents caused by employees that cut corners or have a lapse in judgement.

Myth #5: The Corporate Believer: “I am safe because our organisation has safety policies and protocols in place!”

This employee sees his company’s safety policies and protocols as proof that all is well despite evidence that the existence of such frameworks is meaningless without diligent adherence and enforcement.

Having looked at the foregoing myths, the question that arises is how to exorcise these myths in the workplace. This is where LOOTing comes in.

L – LEARN about health and safety at work. Adequate knowledge tends to dispel myths, so if we learn, we place ourselves in a position to dispel baseless fables and assumptions of invincibility.

O – OBEY safety regulations and protocols at work. If we have a mindset to align with regulations issued by our employer or a regulatory agency, we would be less likely to entertain myths that promote noncompliance.

O – OBSERVE your workplace to note hazards and warning signs. If we look around, we are likely to identify hazards and see reasons why we should align with HSE best practices as opposed to embracing unfounded myths.

T – TALK about safety issues with colleagues and superiors. This would allow us get clarification on any unclear issues, and also influence our colleagues, knowing that a colleague’s actions or inactions can put us at risk of injury or death.

At the end of the day, safety consciousness boils down to whether we want to end up injured or dead, or want to return to our families and enjoy a long, hopefully, fulfilling career. Asides ourselves, we also need to consider that if we selfishly embrace myths, we may cause harm to others, even if we were to somehow escape unhurt.

Without prejudice to the obligations of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to combat financial malfeasance, I ended my presentation by advising the audience to “Forget EFCC; LOOT to stay safe.”

Image Credit: reliableplant.com

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