When my children turned three years old, their heads were exactly the height of much of the furniture in our home. Bruises and bumps abounded and we feared a call from Child Protective Services! We were tempted to tape bumper pads on the key head-knockers to reduce the suffering when we read a book that asked the question, “Are you preparing the path for the child or the child for the path?” We realized that even if we padded our home our children would visit other homes. How could we keep them safe in any environment? We discovered a behavioral precaution called “eyes on path” and our lives got better.
In safety, we often face the dilemma of working on conditions or behaviors. The best safety solutions don’t ignore conditions or behaviors. The engineering hierarchy of controls defines how to start with conditional fixes and migrate to behavioral fixes for risks that cannot be eliminated or controlled adequately with conditional fixes. This approach can result in both a safer workplace and safer workers. Safe workplaces are stationary but workers are not. While we continuously improve workplace conditions, addressing safety behaviors can enhance workplace efforts and also take a road trip with the workers as they go to even more dangerous places, like home and highway. Make sure at least some of your safety efforts are portable.
-Terry L. Mathis
Terry L. Mathis is the founder and CEO of ProAct Safety, an international safety and performance excellence firm. He is known for his dynamic presentations in the fields of behavioral and cultural safety, leadership, and operational performance, and is a regular speaker at ASSE, NSC, and numerous company and industry conferences. EHS Today listed Terry as a Safety Guru in ‘The 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS’ in both 2010 and 2011. He has been a frequent contributor to industry magazines for over 15 years and is the coauthor of STEPS to Safety Culture Excellence, 2013, WILEY.