In 2010 I was working at a large construction project on the Big Island in Hawaii as the Project Safety Manager. One day on a Friday, while touring various construction operations, I observed an unsafe act taking place. Kiewit’s first rule of safety is: “Never walk past an unsafe act or condition.” And certainly, as the safety manager I didn’t.
A crew was framing a 9 foot high wall that would be poured with concrete and using a ladder that was not properly secured. I stopped the worker who was starting to descend this ladder (company policy requires the ladder be secured at both the top and bottom) and asked him why the ladder was not secured? The worker made the excuse, “I am only going to be on the ladder a minute.”
Another worker standing there watching was asked by me, “Why didn’t you correct this unsafe act?” His response was, “Well, you’re the Safety Manager.” A response such as this was not expected nor appreciated. This was immediately followed by a mini-safety-stand-down that I lead to discuss company policy for ladder use and individual responsibility for correcting an unsafe act or condition. In other words, watch out for your buddy.
Over the weekend I thought about that incident and made a decision to meet with all the construction workers first thing Monday morning. There were about 60 workers present. The superintendent leading the meeting discussed work operations and then turned to me and asked if I had anything to say?
Without naming names I brought up the unsafe act that happened on Friday and pointed out that a worker had said to me, “Well, you’re the Safety Manager.” And then here is what I said to everyone present, “Over the weekend I thought about the statement made to me and here’s my response that I want all of you to hear. I may have the title of Project Safety Manager but the fact is each and every one of you is the Safety Manager over your own safety. I’ll repeat that. Each of you is the Safety Manager over your own safety.”
As I looked around at all the workers, I was pleased with the fact that the workers got what I was saying. And it is true; each of us is the Safety Manager over our own safety. Take this to heart and share. Why? For me, I’ve grown extremely tired of hearing about people being killed on the job most often because of stupidity or blatant action that is contrary to good safety practices, company policies, OSHA and even common sense.
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Brion K. Hanks
Retired Safety Manager
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