I have a rescue kitten named Euclid. He is an eight-month-old blur of black and white fuzz.
As much as he is adorable, he is ferocious.
Recently, while cuddling on the couch, Euclid, whose attention span is quite short, decided to lunge for the hair tie holding my hair in a ponytail. The problem was that he used my face as a step, his paw scratching near my eye as I jerked my head away from the assault.
Half an inch closer and he would have grazed my eye.
It's a reminder that even the most harmless things – or kittens – can harm us.
Euclid certainly didn't intend to put my vision in danger.
And, in his playful hunt of the elastic band, he didn't mean to leave a small scar near my right eye. In fact, I'll shoulder the blame for that one, for not keeping his nails better trimmed.
It was, by all accounts, an accident.
More to the point, when I was in fourth grade, I was in a bicycle accident. I was pedaling too quickly down a hill and was propelled over the handlebars, landing face first on the pavement.
The crash knocked me – as well as my front tooth – out and left me with permanent scars on my forehead, nose and fingers.
I missed a week of school, had to forgo my much-anticipated role as a munchkin in the school musical and saw my dad cry for the first time.
My scars – especially the most noticeable, a blue mark above my upper lip – serve as daily reminders – particularly when someone politely informs me that I have blue ink on my lip – to keep safety in mind in every activity, in the workplace and off the job.
While my accident hasn't kept me from riding my bicycle, it has made me more cautious.
I always wear a helmet, even to the grocery store a few blocks away. I never wear loose-fitting pants or open-toed shoes. I always carry a cell phone and a bottle of water (It might also help to note here that I was a Girl Scout).
As humans, we learn from our mistakes. I am as guilty of this as the next person.
The problem is that we can't afford to wait to learn lessons in the workplace. Once an accident happens, it's too late.
The statistics are clear: In 2013, 4,405 workers were killed on the job in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's 85 a week or 12 a day. In total, there were 1.2 million occupational injuries that resulted in days away from work.
My kitten does everything with all of his might; he pours all of the energy in his tiny body into chasing fake mice, climbing his cat tower and, yes, trying to steal off-limit hair ties.
He is exactly the kind of employee I think we all want to be: driven, engaged and fearless in our pursuit of a job well done. But that unchecked drive also can lead to recklessness.
Relentless pursuit of the bottom line or a higher production rate, without pause, leaves room for risky mistakes.
Upon seeing my kitten-induced scar, one of my coworkers joked that I should wear safety goggles around Euclid. The idea, while said in jest, isn't that far off point.
I am not suggesting that all pet owners wear PPE at home. Rather, I think there's something to be said about keeping a constant eye on safety – at work and at home – and in identifying potential hazards before we haphazardly fly over our figurative handlebars.