Your Safety Speaker Mike Hourigan
It’s Not About the PPE, It’s About the People
As a virtual safety speaker and in-person safety speaker, I stress that safety is never about wall posters or personal protective equipment, it’s about the people. In fact, safety is a negotiation.
People, Not Posters
When I speak on safety, either virtually or face-to-face, I like to lead audiences through an exercise. I have them create a picture in their minds of a recent family vacation where everyone was having a good time; perhaps an image of a wife, husband and three kids. I then have them imagine same picture with an “X” through one of the spouses. Then I deliver the sad news: imagine one of them passed away in a tragic, workplace accident.
“How does that make everyone feel?”
“Awful,” “Terrible,” “Devastated,” are typical replies.
“If one of their co-workers saw them doing something risky right before their accident, and said nothing, how would that make them feel?”
“Livid!” “Angry!” “Enraged,” are also typical replies.
So, as a safety speaker, I need to ask why don’t we take safety personally? Why don’t co-workers take safety seriously? Why don’t they watch each other’s backs? If safety is a negotiation that says, “I’ll make sure you go back home to your family, if you make sure I get home to mine,” why wouldn’t that be a great plan?
Forget PPE, Think about Pete
When I give virtual or in-person safety talks, I am invariably asked if I can try to convince audiences to use their PPE. The way I respond is that we shouldn’t be talking about PPE, but Pete, Pablo, Phyllis, Peggy and Paul.
At first, they think I am being dismissive but I explain I am being serious as hell.
I started my career on factory floors and in construction, I knew what the safety posters said, but I didn’t believe them until I saw a co-worker get hurt.
Safety posters, personal protective equipment, signs that talk about burn, slippage or fall hazards are non-living objects we see every day. What is really important are the guys we work with; they are our friends.
If I am really being safety conscious on the job, and I look over at a co-worker and say, “Listen, you’re my friend, so please don’t think I’m being a jerk, but why aren’t you wearing eye protection?”
If we do that enough, I’m hoping that one day she yells out to me “Hey Mike, where’s your safety harness?” or “Why are you trying to lift that equipment by yourself?”
The back and forth between employees is worth its weight in gold. If we can create that negotiation, we will get home to our families. If we can turn safety into a daily negotiation, we will have lots of good memories in all of our pictures.
A Final Note about Safety and Negotiation
The safety negotiation is not just between you and me. As a safety speaker, I have seen far too many examples of “do as I say, not as I do.” If PPE is required on the manufacturing floor, everyone must wear it. Not to create bad feelings, but if the CEO is taking a risk at the job site, the lowest employee on the team should be empowered to say, “Boss, don’t do that!”
The safety negotiation is for all of us. When it comes to returning home to our families, we’re all equal.
Mike Hourigan, Safety Speaker, speaks virtually and in-person on workplace safety. For more information, call Mike today at (704) 875-3030 or by filling out the form below.