Many of the safety rules and procedures that are in place were “written in blood”, meaning they came about from a previous incident that caused an injury, property loss incident, or a fatality. When we implement a safeguard after an incident occurs we are taking a reactive approach to safety. We can look at the majority of rules and procedures that we follow today as a proactive approach towards safety, however many of them came from a reactive position. Something bad had to happen first before many of the rules and procedures were put into place.
Being proactive is the best way to approach safety in the workplace. Addressing and eliminating hazards before work begins should be a main goal of a company’s safety program. Many workers or the management in some companies would rather take a reactive approach with some hazards rather than being proactive and eliminating them up front. This mindset puts everyone onsite and the company as a whole at risk for an incident or injury.
Proactive Versus Reactive Example
An operator is on an excavator in an already tight work area. A crew that has a work task next to him decides to park in his work area. The crew is not aware of the scope of work for the operator’s task and that is why they did not recognize the hazard of parking there. This makes his job even more difficult to complete. Instead of the operator asking the crew to move their vehicles to a safer location or contact his supervisor he decides he can probably squeeze by the vehicles to complete his work. Ten minutes later he turns his excavator around and in the process hits two of the crew’s vehicles with his counterweight.
If he were to took a proactive approach towards the hazard of the vehicles in his work area this incident would not have happened. He could have stopped his work and asked the crew to move their vehicles to eliminate the hazard of hitting them. This small decision could have made a big difference.
Instead, there will be a site shutdown to complete an incident investigation. The investigation takes time and money to complete. There will be a large cost to fix the vehicles. Individuals could be written up in result of the incident. New procedures and rules will be implemented to prevent a similar incident from occurring.
Being proactive sometimes takes time to do successfully. To eliminate some hazards it takes thought and planning to do correctly. Other times, like in the example, a two minute conversation to move the vehicle could save hours of downtime, money, and stress for everyone involved.