Safety… Outside of the Workplace

By Frank Kenna

Last Friday I was driving home for the holiday weekend, going about 50 MPH. Suddenly I saw that the cars in front of me had stopped, creating a backup for more than ¼ mile from a stop light.  I started to brake – but then noticed the car in front of me didn’t.  It kept going – and going – and hit the back of the line of cars at full speed.  It was one of those surreal moments when you can’t quite believe what you’re seeing. 

I swerved to miss everything and stopped to see if I could help.  There were three cars involved. The first car didn’t stop and hit the one in front of it, in turn causing that car to hit the one in front of it.  The guy in the second car (on right) was the worse off.  His seat was broken and in a reclining position.  He was conscious but totally disoriented and obviously injured.  The person in the first car (on left) seemed a little better – her airbags had deployed, but she didn’t understand what had happened.  The third person seemed OK, but I’m sure is still sore.

What caused this to happen?  The road was straight and the traffic backup was very visible.  There could only be one explanation – the person driving the first car must not have been looking forward for a good 5 -10 seconds… my guess is that texting or dialing a cell phone was involved.  At least two injuries and lawsuits are sure to follow. 

Texting while driving has become a huge issue for any company employing drivers.  But it also applies to the “regular” employees, too.  My question is, do we managers think about them often enough?  Communicating safety issues is arguably just as important for our employees’ off-hours activities as for those at work. After all, we want them safe, healthy―and at work.  Where they get hurt is secondary; we don’t want them injured, period.

So how do we communicate at-home safety?  It starts with the realization that employees have lives outside of the workplace where there is a lot less regulation. There is no at-home OSHA or safety director.  In fact, your employees are probably neglecting to wear earplugs when they mow the lawn, eye protection when weed whacking, or heavy boots when chopping wood.  We CAN affect their behavior there by communicating with them about those issues.  We just have to remember to do it.

Sharon Toelle
June 1, 2010

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