EHS OutLoud Blog

Three Seconds: A Small Price to Pay for Working Safely

Would you consider investing three seconds today to avoid injury and pain tomorrow? Would you consider that small investment of time to avert what might turn into a painful experience for you and/or your loved ones?

Three seconds isn’t much time. It’s only about 0.008 percent of a 10-hour workday, and roughly equivalent to the time it takes to grab your spouse’s hand and say “I love you,” kiss your kids goodnight or wish your parents a happy anniversary. 

Another way to think about it might be: “Why wouldn’t you invest three seconds today if it meant preventing you and your family from experiencing injury (or worse) for a lifetime of tomorrows?”   

Many years ago, a seasoned oilfield contractor introduced me to the three-second rule. Ever since, I’ve encouraged those working with me and for me to use it. You can use the three-second rule before starting any task or before restarting a task after disruption or distraction.

Using the three-second rule is easy to do, and each "STEP" in the simple process is described below: 

  • Stop before beginning the next job task.
  • Think for three seconds about the task that you're getting ready to perform.
  • Ensure that hazards associated with the task have been identified and mitigated.
  • Perform the task.

The three-second rule provides the opportunity for real-time hazard assessment and mitigation, as well as the ability to stop the job at the point of highest exposure – just before the worker performs a task. The three-second rule also provides the last opportunity for an employee to protect themselves and others from injury after:

  • Regulatory, company, client, job-specific and safety leadership training.
  • Developing the pre-job safety plan.
  • Participating in the tailgate/toolbox meeting.
  • Identifying and mitigating personal and process safety hazards.
  • Issuance of the permit-to-work authorization.
The conscious decision to invest three seconds today could help to ensure a lifetime of healthy tomorrows for you and your family.

In 2012, workers in private industry suffered almost 3 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses (an average of more than 8,100 injuries/illnesses for every day of the year) and 4,628 workers sustained fatal on–the-job injuries. How much of the pain and suffering to these injured husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, children, uncles, aunts, grandparents and friends might have been averted if the simple steps (Stop, Think, Ensure, Perform) of the three-second rule had been followed?     

Encourage your team to use the three-second rule just before making that next torch cut, prior to disconnecting the cables from that circuit breaker, in advance of taking the first step up that 16-foot extension ladder, right before breaking that process flange connection and just before working on the lawnmower or changing that light fixture in the garage. The conscious decision to invest three seconds today could help to ensure a lifetime of healthy tomorrows for you and your family. 

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