Workplace Health and Safety Prepared me for COVID

I worked in an industrial environment for 8 years, with heavy equipment buzzing around the facility at a decent clip, elevated platforms moving about, skid steers motoring around and alot of stationary equipment, that if not respected could leave you with, at the least, a heart pounding scare, and at the worst, one less appendage or one less life.

4 of my 8 years were spent as a health and safety rep, with all the St. Johns, WSPS, confined space and heavy equipment certifications one would need to be competent to lead workplace Health and Safety.  And yes I took it seriously.  The last thing I wanted, was for me or anyone else,  to have to clean someone up off the floor or have to do a confined space rescue. 

I have worked with enough heavy equipment and machinery to understand the dangers associated with failing to follow propper health and safety procedures.  That’s why Health and safety in the work place is of the up most importance, especially in an insdustrial/manufacturing environment.  There are too many pieces to the operational puzzle for you or your co-workers to slack off on safety.  Especially with the addition of COVID-19.

I know that most of us aren’t used to wearing alot of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) on the job so having to wear a face mask when you leave the house is a pain in the ass!  I get it.

I remember when I first started working in compost and we had to wear N95 dust masks all day.  We’d have to shovel compost, rarely, but some times for hours.  Sweating like mules gasping for breath as the masks got soaked.  It sucked, but I got used to it, so believe me when I say I know what it’s like.

To take it one step further we also had to use half masks, they were a rubber mask with two filters that screwed in and filtered out more inhalents than the N95.   Those things were even harder to work with, but no matter the discomfort or disleasure in wearing all of this PPE, remember the purpose, it’s detrimental to your health.

What I think needs to happen in any working environment is a synergistic amalgamation of process and health and safety.  Interwoven so that, from manager to employee the lines are clearly drawn, the expectations are imposed, followed and reported on when inadequacies are identified, whether they are process related mechanical, or operator.

When I was H&S rep, I found it hard in some cases because I felt there was a difference of opinion, and a lack of support to a certain extent in imposing consequences when lines were crossed.  Emotion and empathy carried too much weight when deciding consequences.  I get it, empathy is good but I believe it needs to be placed in the right position.

For example, my empathy is encased in my job as safety rep.  I don’t want to see you get hurt, I’ll do whatever I can to prevent that from happening, because I understand you have a million other things on your mind, you may be side tracked or lost in thought and you will make a mistake.  I can definately empathize with that and have a discussion.

If you are 60 ft in the air cleaning a ledge, reaching over the side of an arial platform and you’re not tied off.  I don’t have any empathy for that, thats not a mistake, that’s complacency! 

In that circumstance emotion and empathy shouldn’t have consideration within the consequence of the action.  Thats just my opinion.

The point of Health and Safety proceedures at work is to keep everyone safe and healthy, obviously.  The underlying theme in health and safety is accountability and realiability.

As a worker you need to be accountable for your duties, actions and mistakes.  You need to be reliable, in that you watch out for others and operate professionally yourself.  That means being the man or woman that sets the example, doesn’t get complacent and catches themself before they make a poor decision.  Or at least admits when they do and accepts responsibility and the consiqiences.

As managers, you should be supporting the directive of your health and safety reps.  Leading and helping them make improvements, but also be the sturdy hand that supports the hard decisions when they have to be made. 

No matter what your position is in the H&S chain.  Support, accountability and progress should be at the core of workplace health and safety procedures, because when we all have the same outlook, goals and professionalism we tend to watch out for each other, support each other and help positively effect the unity of the working environment.  Much like masking up when we leave the house. 

I’m not pro or anti mask, sure I have my opinions but I also have a responsibility as a human to care for others.  So wether or not I agree, the potential effects of someone I love or care for getting hurt, injured or sick, is enough for me to wear the mask.  So treat your professional environment as you do your personal in regards to your health.

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