Friday, December 28, 2012

Our Greatest Hazard

Where do you put most of your focus when it comes to hazards in the workplace? How you guard the equipment during operations? The Lockout/Tagout process during maintenance? Slips and Falls on stairs or platforms? These are all great concerns and are very important, but the greatest hazard any workplace has is... people.

Think about it. Equipment and machinery are predictable. We go to work every day and push the start button on our machines -- they most likely will start and continue to make the same motions all day long as they have each day before. However, people are not like this. You never know what someone will do from one minute to the next. No matter how much training and awareness have been provided, we somehow (not on purpose) find ourselves in harm’s way.

We are all individuals. We have many things on our minds and they begin to cloud our thoughts -- we lose focus. When this happens, we start taking shortcuts, and after a split second, we're trying to explain the accident or near-miss that just happened. It all boils down to just not paying attention.

So how do we protect ourselves from wandering minds? It is impossible to completely stop thinking about things that are not job-related. We can’t program our minds like robots as we arrive at our workstations. Unfortunately, this is one of those areas where there is no concrete solution. We will always bring a piece of our personal lives to work with us -- we think about that great vacation or the problem that has to be fixed on the house when we get home.

The best thing we can do as supervisors and managers is to listen to our employees. If you sense that they want to let you in on their thoughts, take the time to listen. Show your concern or share in their excitement. Sure, we have to keep a balance, but it’s very important to talk with your employees while on the job. The day can be long, and positive interaction not only builds great working relationships, but can build a greater bottom line at the end of your fiscal year. 

As you engage your employee, you may just find that he or she stays better engaged with the task at hand all day long.

And if it helps, just “whistle while you work.”