What’s the Risk, and Will You Accept It?

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Lessons in workplace safety are all around us. For example, take two recent stories involving two very different on-the-job accidents.

The first story, aptly report by the New York Times, happened on a New Jersey construction site:

“A tower rising 50 stories. A one-pound tape measure attached to the waist of a construction worker. An unsuspecting man stepping from a vehicle at the foot of the building. The three elements converged on Monday morning in a freakish accident, when a 58-year-old man died in Jersey City after being struck in the head by the tape measure after it fell some 400 feet.”

The story goes on to explain two other details worth noting:

  1. The man didn’t work on the construction site; he was just delivering supplies.
  2. Despite jobsite policy, the man was not wearing his hard hat. He had one, but he left it in the truck.

Let’s get the low-hanging fruit from this incident out of the way: Wear a hard hat when you step on a construction site. In fact, you should wear personal protective equipment in every situation in which it is required, period.

Now, we could simply take that lesson to heart and go on about our day, but we’d be doing ourselves a disservice. I believe this incident illustrates two other crucial principles we can all learn from.

First, policies don’t save lives; accountability does. I don’t know the details of this accident or what extenuating circumstances there might have been. I do know that accountability drives workplace safety. Each of us has to take the initiative to clear that walkway, clean up that spill, check that tire tread and put on that hard hat. Furthermore, we need to make sure our co-workers do the same.

Second, we can never assume an accident won’t happen. Seriously, what’s the likelihood of a tape measure falling 50 stories and landing on the one person (presumably) who isn’t wearing a hard hat? The victim in this story was merely delivering supplies, just as he’d probably done hundreds of other times without incident. He certainly didn’t expect to die on the job that day. None of us do, but this story shows that it can happen, sometimes in the most seemingly random way.

That’s why we should ask ourselves two questions before we start a new task: What is the risk, and am I willing to accept it? Before you answer, think about everyone who would be affected if you were seriously injured or killed on the job. The short list probably includes friends, family and co-workers.

What I’m getting at is that it’s easy enough to calculate the monetary costs of workplace accidents. We cannot, however, put a price tag on lives lost due to tragedies such as this one.

In my next post, I’ll share another lesson in safety, courtesy of an industry that’s been entertaining adults and children alike since 1884.

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites.

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