There are many things that need to go right for a worksite or company to maintain a high level of safety and experience zero or a low number of injuries over a long period of time. One important contributor to achieving this is having employees who consider how their decisions affect others. When workers think about each other, whether preparing for or doing a task, everyone wins. An important rule of thumb when making a decision is “to think of the next person.”
Defining “Think of the Next Person”
Pre-planning is one of the most important things individuals can do at work to ensure safe and efficient operations. One aspect of preplanning is thinking about the others who may be impacted by your decisions or the work that you are doing. When you make a choice to do something at work you should not only consider what is easy or convenient for you, but how that choice may affect another person.
An easy way to discuss this idea is to review two common examples that happen every day in workplaces:
Manual handling risks. A vendor is onsite and is delivering heavy boxes. A supervisor makes a quick decision to have the boxes placed in a small room out the way of the operation that day. As work goes on, more objects and obstacles are placed around the boxes without thought. One day the boxes must be retrieved, however, there are too many things in the way for a forklift or piece of machinery to access the boxes. Because of this, the boxes must be lifted by hand by laborers and carried to a spot where they can be accessed. This puts the laborers at unnecessary risk for a sprain or strain injury.
Property damage incidents. A busy construction site that has hundreds of workers on it has been experiencing property damage incidents. A safety manager who is reviewing these incidents notices that most of the items damaged are tools and equipment set down by laborers when they are not being used. These items are not expected to be in these areas and are not seen by heavy equipment operators who end up striking them.
Review of the Examples
In these examples, it is easy to see one thing that went wrong was a lack of foresight and not thinking of the others who may be affected by certain decisions. In the manual handling example, a lack of foresight by the supervisor put the laborers at great risk for injury by having to move the heavy boxes by hand. This exposure to unnecessary risk for a sprain or strain injury occurs often. Even a simple decision to place a heavy box on the floor for sake of ease can lead to an injury for the next person who must bend over to pick it up.
Similar incidents to the property damage example occur daily on construction sites. Carelessness or lack of forethought about the right place to put objects or park vehicles leads to property damage. In the example, the laborers did not take the time to set items in a place where operators would see them or expect them to be. If the laborers would have given thought to the operators’ movements in that area, they probably would have chosen a safer place to put the objects.
Great things happen when everyone begins to consider how their decisions will affect others. Realize that your own safety not only depends on your decisions, but choices made by every other person working around you. A choice as simple as placing a heavy box on a table instead of the floor can save a coworker from experiencing a severe back injury that places them out of work for months.