Recently, I went to a dinner party with some friends and friends of friends. I worked my way around the table, both catching up and making acquaintances. Not surprisingly, I heard a lot of stories. Surprisingly, they all shared a common theme.
Hàoyú* told me about how an employee got injured with a forklift at one of his employer’s plants. In response, the company hosted a training on forklifts a couple days later. Unfortunately, during that training, someone else sustained a forklift injury. And there was another incident a few days later.
A few people at the party work at the same company and are familiar with the dangers of forklifts. Others have never seen a forklift or been on a factory floor, so they couldn’t understand how getting hit with something going a couple miles per hour could be so dangerous. Hàoyú and his colleagues tried to communicate the potential harms forklifts can cause.
The topic soon shifted to Carmen’s new house. There was a mix of renters and homeowners at the table, so Carmen was explaining all the things she loved about her new home—and some things she was watching out for on her house hunt. Another couple talked about how on their search they have seen foundation concerns, water damage, mold and other structural issues that could pose health risks to dwellers.
Kwame and Rohan talked about their recent trip to Bogota, Colombia. Among other anecdotes, they described how the flies swarmed around their food and how they (and some people they met) got ill on their trip. They suspected the flies and other unsafe food prep practices they noted were to blame.
I asked if they ever felt unsafe. They said no. Sophia and I marveled at how they could travel to another country and not fear for their safety. Sophia said she didn’t like working night shift at the hospital because she didn’t want to walk the lengthy distance to and from her car outside in the dark.
A while later, I met Mateo, a resident orthopedic surgeon. He and his family are preparing to move to Missouri, where he will be doing a fellowship specializing in hand surgeries.
“You mean like carpel tunnel?” I asked.
“Yeah, that and trigger fingers are pretty common,” Mateo said. “But I really like reattachment surgeries, like when a finger gets sawed off or an arm gets mangled in a machine.”
“Gross! Does that really happen?” someone asked.
“It’s more common than you think,” Mateo said.
Don’t you and I know it.
The rest of the party passed amiably, and I was met with the best kind of sadness when I headed home.
On the drive back, I thought about the motley crew I had spent the last few hours with. We come from different backgrounds and work in different fields. But there are a few things we all have in common, safety chief among them. In one way or another, we were all concerned about our own personal protection or the well-being of others.
Over the past few years, there have been plenty of conversations at the dinner table about COVID-19. Nonetheless, I was still struck that at this little dinner party so much of the conversations centered around so many different aspects of safety.
As part of my job with EHS Today, I spend a lot of time talking with you about OSHA reporting, compliance and training. But safety is so much more than that. Safety drives nearly everything we do. Put that way, it seems like something everybody—regardless of age, gender, politics, background and skin color—can agree on.
I’m probably not telling you something you don’t already know, but in a time of such divisiveness, it’s a refreshing reminder of our shared humanity. Here’s my challenge for myself—and for you too, if you’d like to join: Let’s focus on how safety unites us.
If you have any suggestions, you know how to reach me. I’ll do my best to address your concerns and share them, so we can all learn from one another and improve workplace safety together.
*Names and some personal identifying information have been changed to respect people’s privacy.