As I've shared over the years, I make safety mistakes. I once purchased a ladder at a garage sale that had one leg shorter than the other. I stabbed my finger to the bone because I was not wearing protective gloves or using the correct tool. I allow myself to be distracted while I drive. I'm not perfect.
That said, when a group of us helped a friend prepare her house for sale, I felt like the safety cop. I was the one running around handing out safety glasses, telling people to be careful on ladders, reminding everyone to hydrate and generally being a pain in everyone's @ss. And I have no regrets about annoying my friends for that entire day.
While they all kidded me about my work life spilling over into my personal life, they also wore safety glasses, drank lots of water and Gatorade and used ladders appropriately because to do so was easier than listening to a lecture from me. And I was hyperaware of my own safety that day, because there's nothing that irritates me more than someone with a "do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do" attitude.
I was reminded of that experience today, as I watched a uniformed police officer stand in the middle of four lanes of moving traffic. I sat at a red light and watched him, thinking perhaps that he was waiting for traffic to slow down because the police department was planning to block the street for some reason.
As I watched him, I realized he was a jaywalker! He was standing in the middle of traffic, ignoring the "walk/don't walk" sign and was crossing the street against traffic.
In Cleveland, where I do most of my driving, we have walk signs that count down the seconds until the light changes. There's no "guessing" about whether or not the light is going to change; you know exactly when it's going to change. Sometimes people see it and think they can beat the light. Other times, they just don't care and they step out into moving traffic or start to cross even though they know the light is changing.
Since the police periodically hand out tickets for jaywalking, I frankly was surprised to see a uniformed officer so blatantly ignore the law.
The police also routinely hand out tickets for texting and driving. And they should. Studies have shown that distracted drivers are as unaware of their surroundings as drunk drivers. A term, intexticated, was even coined to describe it.
So imagine my surprise when two blocks further down the street, I pull up next to a police car waiting at a red light to make a turn. There were three uniformed officers in the car. And every single one of them was looking at their phones and texting.
Ohio law allows for someone "driving a public safety vehicle [to use] a handheld electronic wireless communications device in that manner in the course of the person's duties." But somehow, I don't think those police officers were using their phones in any way that was related to their job duties.
Now I know that most police officers obey traffic laws. But seeing four uniformed officers in a five-minute timeframe who were blatantly disobeying traffic laws struck a chord with me.
In safety, we've really made progress in terms of educating executives, managers and supervisors that when they are in a facility or on a jobsite, they need to obey all of the corporate and federal safety regulations. They need to set an example for everyone at that location because leadership starts at the top. If it is a hard hat area, or an area where hearing protection is required, they'd better have it on, otherwise workers will remind them of the rules.
As we approach what the National Safety Council predicts could be the deadliest Labor Day holiday period for motor vehicle fatalities since 2008 – with 438 people predicted to die on our nation's roads – wouldn't it be helpful if the safety forces tasked with enforcing traffic laws remembered to set a good example of motor vehicle safety?
After all, no one learns a thing from being told "Do as I say, not as I do." But we've all learned valuable lessons from someone who leads by example.
In other words: "Do as I do."