What our mothers taught us about safety

I’m sure she knew that she was, on occasion, saving me from myself. I have been known to be a bit reckless in my youth. As I looked deeper into her messages, what was revealed to me were the universal truths about the way humans can achieve safety.  I hope that many of our readers have had a loving mother to teach them these important and effective lessons. I’m approaching this from a somewhat “playful” way, because honestly, my mom had a great sense of humour and would have preferred that I do it that way. At your next safety meeting, talk about what our mothers have taught us!

Don’t run with scissors
Those of you who are regular readers or who have read my book know that I’m a fan of the Energy/Barriers Model of incident causation. Several of the lessons Mom taught me are about avoiding harmful energy by managing my behaviour.  This one seems very simple as an injury prevention tool: Just don’t do dangerous things.

At our workplaces we need to use elimination as the most effective incident prevention tool. Working at a height without fall protection, entering unsafe trenches or confined space without the proper equipment and procedures are very unsafe behaviours. There is no other advice that will make it safer than simply, “Don’t do these things!”
Don’t stick anything in the socket that doesn’t look like a plug
Other than the obvious electrical shock prevention, this warning is about using things in ways they were not intended for use. My experience was that I used a safety pin…how ironic that I should use something called a safety pin to stick into a live electrical socket. Fortunately for me, I lived through it to, “Never do that again!”
Many industrial incidents happen by using tools and equipment inappropriately. Cases in point, that long piece of pipe in the back or some of your trucks that fit so nicely over your wrench handle. In reality, you can do this (it is called a snipe); it does increase your leverage. It’s just simply a bad idea that one day will cause you to fail and possibly hurt you or your co-worker.

Don’t put that in your mouth
Long before WHMIS, we had Mom’s advice. If you don’t know what it is, for goodness sake don’t eat it. In an industrial setting, it is obvious that using chemicals without proper information is heading us for disaster. Know the dangers and don’t expose your body to things you’re not intended to breathe in, absorb or ingest.

Don’t wrestle in the house
My mother’s living room always looked like a cover picture from a Better Homes & Gardens magazine. This was the last place you would want to “wrestle” with a sibling. In an industrial sense, “horseplay” has no place in our workplaces. No more than it did in the living room.

Put your toys away
Slipping and tripping hazards in our workplaces happen for very simple reasons — chances are we didn’t put away our “toys”. Housekeeping is important. “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Simple advice and as I learned many years later when I was raising my own children — nothing hurts more than stepping on a single Lego piece barefoot.

Look both ways
Every year approximately one third of all Canadian worker fatalities are caused by traffic accidents. Healthy respect for the rules of the road and yielding to the right of way will prevent many needless injuries and deaths. Our mothers had it right: Look out for what others are doing. Driving defensively is all about looking out for and anticipating mistakes.

Look out for each other
OH&S management is based on the idea that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. We’re all in this together, and actively caring about each other’s health and safety is good for us all. When we look out for each other we make our workplaces so much safer and healthier.

Sharing is nice
Discussing safety hazards at meetings and tailgate talks makes a difference.  Warning each other and discussing our experiences have a positive outcome in our workplaces. Let’s share ideas to make our workplaces safer.

No, you can’t have a BB gun…you’ll put your eye out
Not sure there is a link here but to this day, “A Christmas Story” is my favourite seasonal movie. You see, that was my life growing up in the 50’s. Only difference is I never got a BB gun. My mom knew me well and I probably have two eyes today because my mom didn’t let me have one!

Thanks to all the mothers who teach us that being safe is the right choice. Your sons and daughters love you for it!
Alan D. Quilley, CRSP, is the author of The Emperor Has No Hard Hat – Achieving REAL Safety Results, and the president of Safety Results Ltd. a Sherwood Park, Alberta OH&S consulting company. You can reach him at aquilley@ safetyresults.ca