Safety is the foundation

We frequently remind ourselves and others that safety is foundational in Total Worker Health®. By this we mean that health and well-being are critically important, but if we don’t make work (or life outside of work) safe first, we may not reach the point where health or well-being can be attained or enjoyed.

Yesterday, while working at home as a non-essential worker, my adult daughter returned home shaken. She had been on a run in our suburban neighborhood, when a homeowner (attended by small children) severed a power line while felling a tree. The severed line hit the sidewalk-less road within a foot or two of my daughter. Syncing my “parent hat” with my now home-based Safety and Health Professional hat, I donned my bike helmet and rode the half mile or so to the site. I was concerned that the area was properly blocked off, knowing that PGE (Portland General Electric) had been called but likely had not yet arrived. Anecdotally, I was also interested in learning more from the homeowner as to why this had happened.

When I arrived at the site, the kids let me know they had blocked off the street (using tables). I explained to them that I was the parent of the person who had almost been hit. They were concerned, and I felt I had an opportunity to make sure they understood how important safety practices are when doing potentially dangerous jobs. They said their dad knew how to do it, and they were helping him pull the tree away from the lines, but it got away from them. As I chatted with the kids, their parent came up and asked if he could help me. In essence I was told it was simply an accident. After I made the point that while accidents happen, following known safety practices can help prevent injuries and deaths, he replied,  “People die every day.”

You can imagine how I felt after hearing this, and I was relieved when PGE arrived to know that it was now in good hands, and that the PGE line worker would help this homeowner understand the significance of what he had done, and yes, that it could  (and should) have been prevented. Later I got to thinking about how horrible it would have been if any of these young children had been hurt or killed, or if they had seen their dad be injured or killed by this preventable accident. I am thankful that while this accident happened, and it did cause electrical outage, that no life was lost.

Thus, I am reminded of the importance of continuing to educate others and share our message that accidents can be prevented, both at work and at home. Children can and should be taught about how to reduce risk, beginning with simple examples and activities. And while many of us want to give our kids “life experiences” please let us make sure when we do it we are selecting reasonable and safe activities to teach risk and prevention, before putting them or ourselves in harm’s way.

Activities That Teach Safety (by Scholastic for PreK-K)
Student Safety Month Safety Plans (by teacher planet)
Youth @ Work: Talking Safety for Oregon (NIOSH/Oregon OSHA)
Young Employee Safety Awareness Training (O[yes], Oregon OSHA, teens + with certificate)
Promoting U Through Safety & Health (PUSH, Oregon Healthy Workforce Center)