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“It Was a Matter of Time” Safety Talk
We have all heard the term “it was a matter of time” used to describe both good and bad events. For example, we have heard it used in a positive context, such as: “it was a matter of time before Tom got the promotion he deserved.” Unfortunately, it is also used many times in conjunction with discussing a negative event such as a workplace injury: “I knew it was a matter of time before Tom got into an accident. He is always texting and driving.” When used in the context of discussing a workplace injury after the fact, it becomes apparent that not only were others aware of the risk the individual was taking but also that it could have been prevented.
Coworkers Taking Risks Around You
When someone states “it was a matter of time” when referring to a specific individual taking risks and getting hurt on the job, usually the risks that person was taking had been going on for a long time. While you can try to argue that making sure that those around you work safely is not your job, it does certainly affect you, and you should want to see your coworkers go home in the same condition they went into work that day.
Hazards Unaddressed in Work Areas
There are other situations when someone states that it was a “matter of time” when discussing a workplace injury where they are referring to an existing hazard left in a work area and not the behaviors of an individual. Often times there are hazards that are not addressed by the management of a company or just by a single supervisor in a specific area of a worksite.
When this is the case, everyone in that work area is exposed to the risk and can be injured. In a perfect world, management takes all hazards seriously and does what is feasibly possible to eliminate these hazards. The world is not perfect. This leaves it to the employees to “deal” with whatever the hazard(s) may be.
Actions to Take in These Situations
When dealing with other workers taking unnecessary risks:
- Speak up. Realize that it is your problem when someone else at work is taking risks. Even if you are not injured, someone else may be, or the site could be shut down due to a serious incident occurring.
- Talk to the worker about it. Let them know that there is time to do the task the right way and that an injury not only affects them but it also affects their family and coworkers.
- Get a supervisor involved. Make sure a safety manager or your direct supervisor knows what is going on. Involve the right people to get an issue fixed.
When dealing with existing hazards:
- Work with management to attempt to eliminate or mitigate the hazard(s). If your direct supervisor does not take your concerns seriously, get another level of management involved.
- Take any action you can to mitigate the hazard you are exposed to. Let others know of the existence of the hazard and what can be done to avoid exposure to it.
Taking the above actions or other actions to correct a dangerous situation before it gets to someone saying, “it was a matter of time” after an injury occurs is not always easy. We all have families and should want to see others go home healthy. Realize the far-reaching consequences an injury has for not only the injured worker but also for you and your coworkers as well. Knowing that an injury affects the company as a whole can shift your mindset from “it is not my problem” to it is my problem, and I need to speak up.
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