What is Your Safety Story?
In April of 2018, we hosted a TCIA Safety Round-table in our office. The round-table was facilitated by Scott Jamieson of Bartlett Tree Experts and began with a simple question to all of us in the room; what is your safety story? Scott asked us all to think about that for a moment and write it down before sharing in small groups. It was amazing to see everyone writing almost immediately. We all had one or more defining moments on why safety mattered to us.
For me, my safety story came from when I worked with Milwaukee County Parks as an arborist. I was fresh out of college and didn’t have much experience, but knew enough to perform a proper pruning job. I was pruning a small honey locust and used my hand saw to cut about a 2” diameter branch. I made my under cut, supported the branch with my left hand, then made my top cut and took the cut branch away from me by dropping it off to my side. I never looked below me or called for an all clear and because I was just using my handsaw the ground guy beneath me didn’t know what was coming for him. By the time I heard the thud and a few choice words, it was way too late. I had dropped the branch right on top of my co-worker. Fortunately, it was a glancing blow off of his hard hat onto his shoulder, but in that moment I was struck with the indescribable feeling of guilt and shame for foolishly working aloft. My co-worker sustained a large bruise on his shoulder and healed fairly quickly, however, this careless act by myself caused him to have to change plans for his daughter’s birthday party that coming weekend.
As each of us shared our personal stories in the roundtable, I realized that while my mistake was a small one compared to others, the impact that my incident had on me was the same as everyone else’s. I could see the pain in their eyes and hear the sorrow in their voices as they shared their stories. We all were saying the same thing; I never want to be responsible for someone else’s injury ever again.
Scott then asked us to dig deeper and create our own personal Safety Vision Statement. Again, we all started writing right away. I began by stating that my responsibility above all else is to promote and provide the safest workplace possible. Refining my statement more I came up with:
Every injury is my fault and no injury is acceptable.
As a leader within your company, your personal safety vision is critical to creating the safety culture that you want. And while this was a simple exercise to do, it was a very powerful way to get each of us to take ownership in safety. Scott challenged each of us to go back to our companies and use this exercise as part of a safety meeting. When everyone ties safety to a personal experience, it becomes very real and very serious. Now it’s my turn to challenge you to use this exercise in your next safety meeting. Thanks Scott for continuing to help every arborist make it home safe each night!