Think of the Next Person
There are many things that need to go right for a worksite or company to maintain a high level of safety and experience zero or a low number of injuries over long periods. One characteristic of a workforce that achieves low injury numbers is one with employees who consider how their decisions affect others. Everyone wins when workers think about each other when preparing for a task or doing a task. When making a decision, an important rule of thumb is “to think of the next person”.
Preplanning is one of the most important things individuals can do at work to ensure safe and efficient operations. One aspect of preplanning is thinking about those who may be impacted by your decisions or the work that you are doing. When you choose to do something at work you should not just consider what is easy or convenient for you, but should also consider how that choice may affect another person.
1. Manual handling risks. A vendor is onsite and is delivering heavy boxes. A supervisor makes a quick decision to have the boxes placed in a small room out of the way of the operation that day. As work goes on, more objects and obstacles are placed around the boxes without thought. One day the boxes must be retrieved, however, there are too many things in the way for a forklift or piece of machinery to access the boxes. Because of this, the boxes must be lifted by hand by labourers and carried to a spot where they can be accessed. This puts the labourers at unnecessary risk for a sprain or strain injury.
2. Property damage incidents. A busy construction site with hundreds of workers has been experiencing property damage incidents. A safety manager who is reviewing these incidents notices most of the items damaged are tools and equipment set down by labourers when they are not being used. These items are not expected to be in these areas and are not seen by heavy equipment operators who end up striking them.
In these examples, it is easy to see one thing that went wrong was a lack of foresight and not thinking of the others who may be affected by certain decisions. In the manual handling example, a lack of foresight by the supervisor put the labourers at great risk for injury by having to move the heavy boxes by hand. This exposure to unnecessary risk for a sprain or strain injury occurs often. Even a simple decision to place a heavy box on the floor for sake of ease can lead to an injury for the next person who has to bend over to pick it up.
Similar incidents to the property damage example occur daily on construction sites. Carelessness or lack of forethought about the right place to put objects or park vehicles leads to property damage. In the example, the labourers did not take the time to set items in a place where operators would see them or expect them to be. If the labourers would have given thought to the operators’ movements in that area they probably would have chosen a safer place to put the objects.
Great things happen when everyone begins to consider how their decisions will affect others. Realize that your own safety not only depends on your decisions but on choices made by every other person working around you. A choice as simple as placing a heavy box on a table instead of the floor can save a co-worker from experiencing a severe back injury that places them out of work for months.