Safety Expressions We Used to Say
4/18/2012 9:18:00 AM
Recently I had a conversation with an elderly man at a church gathering where heaffectionately referred to his wife as a "dame." Dameâ¦ That's not a word you often hear these days except in old Popeye cartoon re-runs. Here's another old saying: My wife's grandmother described a pain she recently suffered as "hurting like the dickens!" I've heard that expression many times before but on that occasion I wondered what in the world is "dickens" anyway? Charles Dickens perhapsâ¦ What did that legendary author have to do with pain? Remember Wally in Leave itto Beaver? He used to use the word "swell" to describe things as being good. Doesn't swell mean the same thing as swollen? Anyway, I digress. Though baffling and bazaar as these old sayings may be to us newbies, we can't ignore the fact that these sayings once held real meaning and were commonly used forms of expressions. I feel the same way about these old expressions when I speak with my friends in industry that proudly tell me their business has gone (you pick the number) of days without anaccident. Why in Sam Hill (Sam Hill â what is it and where is it?) Is it "swell" to count the days that nobody gets hurt? Here's my two cents (thoughts) about that!
The truth is, I get why peoplebrag about nobody getting hurt or not experiencing any
accidents for a length of time. However, this so-called metric is quickly becoming a nostalgic achievement to current-day safety professionals that doesn't really mean safety is achieved. Now, when someone tells me their plant has gone 300 days without an accident, I often wonder if I'm just receiving an earful of nonsense and there's more to the story.
A few years back, I visited a plant where one of my employees was struck by another employee drivinga forklift. The MAU employee was injured badly and I wanted to see the scene of the collision. To be clear, the pedestrian in this incident was an MAU employee and the person driving the forklift was employed by my client. As I entered the facility I noticed a sign on the wall boasting 197 safe days. Didn't this pedestrian/forklift incident just happen yesterday I wondered to myself? Are they still counting safe days despite the fact a forklift hit a pedestrian? I quickly learned they were! I asked the warehouse manager why they were still counting safe daysdespite the incident and he literally smiled and said, "Oh yeah, our guy didn't get hurt." To make matters worse, that same manager asked me a few days later to contribute to their safety celebration for achieving 200 safe days. I didn't contribute, if you're wondering.
There were so many things wrong with this situation but I want to focus on the idea that this plant used safe days as a metric and attached a celebration for achieving them. All the while, they really didn't achieve 200 safe days. Management at this plant chose to ignore a very visible injury that took place under their own roof because their employee didn't get injured in the incident. Yet paramedics carried a person out of the facility on a stretcher and drove away in an ambulance. I wonder how many other incidents occurred in which "their guy" didn't get hurt or how many near hits/misses they experienced in which they got lucky. How many people stuck a bloody hand in their pocket to hide their injury because they didn't want to be the one that prevented the 200-safe-days party? What kind of a message did their employees