Ehstoday 2191 Nightride

Treading Gingerly: The New Normal

July 31, 2015
Safety gives us the power to redefine the ordinary.

We can't always do what we want.

We have to follow the rules. We have to be responsible. We have to make smart choices.

But sometimes, we get to do things outside of our daily norm, things that seem impossible, yet somehow come within our reach under the right circumstances.

As a reporter, I've been lucky; I've gotten to do some pretty great things.

I've experienced zero Gs over Lake Erie on a C-130; I've zipped around a test track in a BMW racecar; I've soared over a rural countryside in a hot air balloon.

These were amazing yet terrifying experiences. That said, they were experiences designed to occupy that extra space in our lives, that space in which the ordinary doesn't, can't exist. They are, by design, thrills.

But I'm interested in something else: a different kind of experience. I'm interested in thrills that become the norm, thrills that become part of our ordinary lives.

What I'm talking about is redefining the ordinary.

I recently went on a night ride with my friends on a Saturday. It was the second time I've climbed onto my bike for a group ride through the forest as dusk settled in. One of 161 riders, I pedaled 14 miles through the woods, my bike light guiding me along the ever-darkening path.

While unique for me, these rides aren't rare; the group with which I rode hosts these several Saturdays in the summer. What makes these rides possible, ordinary even, is safety.

By wearing a helmet, by using a bike light, by riding with a group on a designated path, I was able to travel a route with which I was unfamiliar in darkness without worry.

Thanks, safety.

It's these experiences – something as ordinary as riding a bicycle – that can be enhanced through precaution. Just think about the application of that to the shop floor.

When we take something we do every day – riding a bike in the woods, operating a cable line, driving a car to work – and apply safety standards to it we can transform that activity into a new iteration of itself.

At General Cable's North American plants, hand injuries are practically a thing from a bygone era since the company eliminated the use of knives and open blades at its production facilities, a move that reduced hand injuries by 40 percent in the first year. The way workers did their jobs every day changed to create a new, safer experience, but didn't depart that far from the norm, instead redefining it.

And, as autonomous vehicles take to the road, these cars that think independently of drivers promise to transform an everyday experience into something not entirely new, yet still foreign. Drivers will surrender control of their vehicles, in favor of an automated, mechanized system of transport, a mode of travel marketed as a safer alternative to the daily commute.

In this way, safety measures – either through behavioral changes or technological advances – enable a new way of life, of work. They transform something dangerous into something ordinary, easy.

They make safety the new normal.

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