Page 21 - Texas811 Magazine 2021 Issue 4
P. 21

It Starts at the
By Joe Igel
My wife and I like to travel and while we have taken a sabbatical from it during COVID for obvious reasons, we have still made a few family-related trips exercising as sound a judgment and as many precautions as we could.
On a recent trip, we were eating at a nice restaurant on a socially distanced outside patio. At the table across from us was a larger party, with several children in it. One of the children, around 7 years of age, grabbed ice cubes from his drink, put them in his mouth and then proceeded to spit them into the air. After each spit, he looked back at the table for reaction. Apparently receiving none, he repeated the process. He stopped for a moment, but when
he resumed, I decided to get up and intervene.
Besides the obvious COVID concerns, the inappropriateness in a nice restaurant should be apparent. From several reactions at other tables, it
was to other patrons on the patio as well. Being as nice as I could, I went
to the table to try to stop the antics, addressing nicely any “adult in charge” to stop him from repeating the act. Rather than get into an argument over COVID, I chose the appropriateness of his actions in a restaurant as my point of emphasis. While I could tell my intervention was unappreciated by the table, the activity did stop, and we could finish our dinner without further event.
You might ask how this story relates to safety, risk management and the impact of recent technology on the industry.
It does in the most basic of ways. It does because safety, management and the introduction of technology is not
a replacement for sound judgment. A seven-year-old may not fully understand
what is wrong with spitting ice cubes into the air in a restaurant but a parent certainly should, and it is the parent’s duty to ensure that the child does as well or for the parent to take a more active role in supervision. Since a parent cannot be everywhere at once, much as a safety director can not be in all places, instilling the values and understanding is the wisest approach.
This is not meant to compare employees to children but to explore the supervisory roles in safety and
the use of technology. In past articles,
I have stressed the need to empower employees with the values of the company with respect to safety, so they understand the correct path to follow. However, as supervisors, as managers, if we do not embrace those values, if we do not follow our own rules, we send a mixed message and our ability to provide a safe working environment will most certainly go awry.
No technology, no matter how state- of-the-art, can make up for this. While it may eliminate some problematic decisions, it will also introduce new ones. No safety talk can correct the louder message sent by behavior. Sometimes, after many years in the industry, safety professionals get tired and frustrated, allowing behaviors (missing eye protection, other PPE seems common) they know are wrong to go on. Whether it is some version of “boys will be boys” or a feeling that no one will listen to them, really makes no difference. The result is the same.
A refocus on core values and getting endorsement up and down the ranks must be the priority for actual safety.
Mr. Igel recently retired as vice president of the George J. Igel & Co., Inc. after working there for more than 35 years.
2021, Issue 4 Texas811 • 19

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