Safety Culture Excellence®

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Personal Responsibility for Safety

September 25th, 2013

An article in the newspaper reported how many toddlers were backed over in their own driveways by their own parents and relatives.  The closing call to action was for the government to pass legislation making backup cameras mandatory on all vehicles.  While the intention is probably sincere, the method is flawed.  We have progressed farther in industrial safety than we have in off-the-job safety and should take the lessons we have learned and apply them to problems such as these.

We addressed backing issues in industry successfully as much as 30 years ago, long before we ever started putting cameras on vehicles.  We solved these problems through training and new procedures rather than through conditional fixes.  The problem begins with the fact that driving has become so routine for most Americans that they have lost their sense of vulnerability.  They view driving as a chore, a convenience, a necessity of daily life and not as the dangerous activity it actually is.  Driving-related injuries and deaths still outnumber industrial ones by about a ten-to-one ratio.  But we do not publicize this fact nor do we adequately train or prepare drivers to appreciate and address the risks of driving.  

Certainly we should make conditions as safe as possible.  Cars can be better equipped and driveways and roadways can be better designed for safety.  But there will always be the need for more, and that more is for operators of vehicles to make sure they know what is in their path before they drive.  The problem is not backing, it is checking before you back.  Until drivers take personal responsibility to change their pre-driving routine the problem will persist regardless of the gadgets we attach to vehicles.  We learned this already in industry and should not need to repeat the learning cycle before ending these tragedies.

-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 2010, 2011 and 2012-2013. 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.

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