Work Safer Today Than You Did Yesterday: Trends in PPE and Safety

I was recently at a job site and took this picture. Can anyone notice something possibly unsafe? Go ahead and take a look.

This gentleman is no doubt doing fine work and holding to the quality standards for anything made in America. He’s also wearing a safety harness which looks to be properly hooked up to a horizontal lifeline. Even the board he’s working from appears to be rigged per OSHA standards. However, the box he’s standing on is another story. It’s giving him a step up so he can work ergonomically for sure, but it’s just a box, not secured to anything and presents an additional risk of falling. Sure, his fall arrest lanyard will prevent him from severe injury, but he may still suffer minor injuries from the fall itself or could swing like a pendulum smashing into the building or scaffolding he’s working from. Wouldn’t it be better to not use the box at all and remove the risk of stepping off and falling in the 1st place? What if each day everyone looked around and ask themselves a single question,

“How can I work Safer Today than I Did Yesterday?"

I cut my teeth in manufacturing companies that build themselves on the principal of continuous improvement and we didn’t stop at improving just the main quality metrics every company uses: Quality, Delivery, Inventory and Cost. When we looked at safety, we didn’t just review recordable incidents and how to prevent them, we pushed our teams to tell us what they did every day that they could do safer tomorrow. We even set a goal that every month, we needed to receive at least 20 suggestions on how to work safer and rewarded them for beating that goal. Then, we acted on them. If we made small changes to workflow, ergonomics and PPE that made the work safer. If we didn’t make changes, we pulled the teams together and explained to them why. The results not only reduced OSHA recordable incidents, it also INCREASED employee engagement. We gave them a voice and acted on it and in return our employees were fiercely loyal and poured out more discretionary effort than any gift card drawing or free lunch safety program could bring. And all we had to do was keep asking the question to the boots on the ground (or on the scaffolding as the case may be), “How can I work Safer Today than I Did Yesterday?”

Next time you see a worker at height near the leading edge using a tool that isn’t tethered, ask yourself the same question and see if “preventing injury” from an inevitable drop makes more sense than preventing the drop in the 1st place. Now that’s what I call working safer today than I did yesterday.