I have a confession: I like winter.
This past weekend, much to my freezing friends’ dismay, I went tobogganing. The Cleveland park system operates toboggan chutes – 700-foot refrigerated ice chutes – every winter.
Riders are warned repeatedly – on signs, by workers – to keep their limbs inside the edges of the toboggan at all times.
The precautions make sense. The toboggans can reach speeds of up to 50 mph while careening down the narrow, icy track.
A few hours into my tobogganing excursion, the light snow had turned heavier and begun coating the tracks. Workers halted the rides as they cleared the snow.
At the top of the hill, what appeared to be a father and his two sons climbed onto a toboggan, readying themselves for when the gate would be lifted and their descent would begin.
Seconds before their launch, worried voices rang out from those in line around me. The man’s coat had come unfastened and was dragging beside the toboggan, primed to potentially get caught under the sled and cause an accident.
Helping that man didn’t directly benefit anyone in that line. In fact, if anything, the time it took for the man to fix his coat only extended their already hour-long wait time.
But those who noticed the hazard didn’t hesitate to speak up; their response was automatic.
That selfless, gut reaction is exactly what safety speaker John Drebinger talked about during his keynote address at EHS Today’s 2014 Safety Leadership Conference.
Drebinger urged EHS professionals to encourage their coworkers to point out workplace hazards to one another, to be the first line of defense in preventing injury.
“You see somebody doing something unsafe, and you simply walk over and say, ‘Hey, would you like me to watch out for your safety?'” he said.
It's about taking that natural human instinct to protect and care about one another, as shown by those other riders in line, and applying it to a workplace environment.
Safety at its core, as Drebinger suggested, is about having one another's back.