Goals and Other Nonsense

By David H. Glabe, P.E. / May 1, 2007


Have you ever noticed the bumper sticker on the pick up truck that roars by you at 20 miles over the limit?  It says “Safety is my Goal.”  Does that make sense to you?  Kicking the football between the goal posts is a goal.  Leaving a jobsite without injury is a goal.  But watch out for the guy who says: “Safety is my goal.”  To me that suggests that he plans on getting safe some day but he just hasn’t gotten there yet!  Furthermore, how do you obtain safety?  Do you buy it at the home improvement center on aisle 3 between the paint and toilets?  Or maybe you can get it from the local scaffold supplier who has some extra safety lying around.

I think not.  Safety isn’t a goal but rather a process.  In the case of safety, the process is ensuring that the actions of people provide the result of no injuries or death.  So, in the case of the speeding truck driver, while he is presumably encouraging safety by slapping a bumper sticker declaring his concern, his actions suggest otherwise.  And so it is on the jobsite.  If safety is the goal and not the process, stay away.  Safety should be a way of working that results in a healthy safe environment.  The process produces the result, and without the process you will never get the result.  Think about it.


How often have you heard of this one?  I want some of those OSHA approved plank.  You can only have OSHA approved scaffold in this plant.  Yeah, right.  In scaffolding, OSHA doesn’t approve anything.  That’s not their job.  It’s your job to make sure you are in compliance with OSHA standards.  In scaffolding, this means you have to understand your equipment, your regulations, and how you work.  There is no substitute and there is no way around it.  Another claim close to this is the one that says this product “complies with all applicable OSHA standards.”  This actually is an accurate statement, for the manufacturer.  In the case of scaffolding, the user is the one who has to ensure the product is being used safely (see above) and complies with the applicable OSHA standards.  You obviously rely on the manufacturer to provide accurate information and a safe product, but that same manufacturer cannot control how you use the product.  Therefore it is up to you.  Look at it this way: An OSHA approved plank wouldn’t prohibit you from overloading it so what good would be the approval?  Think about it.


Have you ever been on a jobsite where there is a “100% tie-off policy?”  You look around and everybody is tied off to something.  All the workers are looking good.  They are wearing harnesses and have lanyards, hooks, lifelines, retractables, and other assorted hardware.  Some of these workers have so much stuff they look like walking hardware stores.  And they’re tied off.  Everybody is happy.  The safety person is pleased and convinced the job is safe.  The next time you go on to a jobsite, however, ask if the site has 100% fall protection.  That’s right, 100% fall protection.  Look around at what the walking hardware stores are tied to.  Then you’ll realize that 100% tie-off doesn’t mean 100% fall protection.  100% tie-off is easy; 100% fall protection isn’t.  Think about it.


It seems that we get “competent person” and being competent confused.  OSHA has a definition for the competent person but has no definition for not being competent.  Basically, a competent person is an individual who can recognize a hazard and has the authority to do something about it.  On the other hand being competent suggests you have ability and qualifications.  Not being the competent person and being incompetent are two entirely different things.  But it’s amazing to me how many people think they can be competent persons when they truly are incompetent.  Take for example, an incompetent individual who questions the decision of a competent person.  If the incompetent person has authority without ability, look out.  Think about it.


How often have you been on a jobsite and you see someone performing an unsafe act (that’s a polite way of saying he’s doing something stupid that will result in injury or death).  You shake your head and think to yourself: “Look at that guy-what an idiot.”  Why do you do that?  Why haven’t you stopped and talked him into stopping his unsafe act?  Be polite, don’t tell him he’s an idiot, especially if he’s bigger than you.  You just might see him do another unsafe act!  But seriously, this guy is another human being, just like you, with family and friends.  Just because you don’t know him doesn’t mean you don’t have to care.  The day everybody starts thinking about their fellow workers in a concerned way will be the day the safety process (see above) takes a great leap forward and provides a result that will be awesome.  And you don’t even have to think about that!

Tags: Fall Protection 100% tie-off forming OSHA Standards & Regulations Resources Safety Hazards

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David H. Glabe, P.E.

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