I know what you’re thinking. And while I hear 3 Musketeers candy bars supposedly have a richer chocolaty taste, that’s not what I’m talking about. Instead, I’m referring to our 17th century heroes in the novel The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. Most of us are familiar with the movie version of the story, and currently can see the 3D remake of the action-adventure film. I’m not going to get into the storyline, but I do want to focus on the Musketeers of the Guard’s motto. So let us raise our imaginary swords to the sky and say it together: “All for one and one for all.”
I love that battle cry. Each of the members is dedicated and accountable to one another. That word “accountable” is often used in our own daily lives and workplaces, but rarely acted on. We have a hard time being personally accountable, much less a shared accountability. But accountability is crucial when it comes to safety.
My friends and family often call me a “safety nerd.” If I remember correctly from elementary school, “nerd” stands for Never Ending Radical Dude. Being compared to an over-glorified school hall monitor who orders you to stop running in the hallways and who hands out detentions for being late to class is nothing new to me. Occasionally, however, I meet someone who is actually interested and familiar with what I do. Those are my favorite people, by the way. Recently, I had a conversation with one of them – a business owner by the name of Donald Smith.
A couple of years ago, Donnie decided to buy out his current company and become his own boss. He is now the owner of Pacific Crest Landscape Inc. How sweet is that? To leave on a Friday answering to your superiors only to return on Monday to have them answer to you, all while you help them clear out of your new office. Dreams do come true. But I digress.
Donnie was all fired up and excited to tell me that since he’s taken over in 2009 he has experienced exactly ZERO accidents. This of course results in a lower ex-mod, lower insurance rates and most importantly, no one has been injured. I shared in his enthusiasm and asked how he accomplished this. Donnie told me that when he took over, he set the bar extremely high for safety, exchanging old habits for new ones. He has multiple crews of workers and they are accountable for each other’s actions. If one member succeeds, they all succeed. If one of the members fails, they all fail. It’s that simple.
What happens when we experience a lapse in safety? It often turns into the finger-pointing blame game. No one told me about that. It’s not my job to check this. So and so was supposed to do that. Sound familiar?
Companies spend a lot of time and money on safety procedures, behavior-based safety seminars, training and the proper way to use equipment and tools. All good things, but despite these efforts, we still see a lot of people getting hurt. Why? Could it be due to that lack of accountability? I wonder if a commitment to personal and shared accountability when it comes to safety would make a significant difference. I’d like to think so.
Do yourself a favor and walk around your office, warehouse, construction site or wherever you spend your working hours and ask, “Who’s responsible for safety?” My bet is that most of your fellow employees will point you in the direction of the safety manager or human resource director. That, of course, is the wrong answer. Each of us is responsible for the safety at our place of work. Hopefully, that same employee eventually will know to point at him or herself. This is the kind of response we should desire. That’s the accountability we’re looking for.
“All for one and one for all.”
Guest blogger Aaron J. Morrow, CHST, works as a project HSE manager and is a safety consultant, an OSHA 500 trainer, a Cal/OSHA 5109 trainer and a construction risk insurance specialist.