Delivering the Safety Message

January 18, 2012 2 Comments

Blog Editor Allen F. Weitzel has been a trailblazer in the recreation field for 45 seasons, most recently leading the safety and training department at a California amusement park for 25 seasons.

By Allen F. Weitzel

Employees have an obligation to follow procedures and work safely. Management has an obligation to know procedures, train employees on them, and then monitor employee actions to make sure employees remember and follow those procedures, and remind them when they do not. When it comes to safety, management must understand their responsibilities and must deliver the safety message.

A Vivid Example

A manager at a well-known amusement park told me this story. Three weeks after the company worked with OSHA to accept citations and fines on two separate incidents where workers fell from heights (seriously injured, but were not killed), a staff member noticed the maintenance department performing rehab on a popular park coaster. Three mechanics were attempting to remove the steel ride sign. The workers had a ladder extended to a beam located behind the sign. Two mechanics were at ground level, not even holding the ladder. The third mechanic was up on the ride structure, and had one foot on the ladder and one foot on the beam behind the sign – unbolting the sign. The worker who was doing the elevated work at 35-40 feet off the ground was not wearing any fall protection. Did someone not deliver the word about the previous fall incidents? Did the management team not remember the park was on a multi-year probation with OSHA to prevent further incidents? Luckily, in this instance, no one fell, partly because the passing staff member contacted the mechanics’ supervisor right away, and stopped the action before an accident could occur. Certainly, every employee in the company had known of the previous two employee falls and injuries. Who allowed the worker to work at that height without fall protection? Why did the other two workers not stop the action of the unharnessed worker?

React To All Information

Several years ago, I was hired to conduct a shopper’s report at an aquatic park. I was to look for the good, bad and the ugly. During my tour, I spent some time watching a popular interactive live fish attraction, where an aquarium guide/volunteer would monitor the pool and allow adults and children to interact with a variety of small fish. I had previous experience managing a live trout operation, so I was familiar with fish behavior. I saw that the female employee working this display pool was wearing long shiny earrings. In the process of helping children learn more about the fish, she would often get her head down close to the water. I called my aquarium contact that day to advise of this hazard. In the shopper’s report that I submitted, I alerted the management that the shiny long earrings the female employee was wearing might be mistaken for fishing lures, which to the fish in the pool, appear to be the prey of other fish. The fish might attempt to strike at the earrings, and cause injury to the worker’s ear. Three months later, I received a follow up message from the person that accepted my report and had shared it with the aquarium management. I was informed that, sadly, my prediction had come true. A young female worker had lost the lower part of her earlobe to a fish trying to attack her shiny long earring. I never found out if the employee had not heeded the warning of management to change the type of earrings that they were allowed to wear, or if the department manager had failed to read my shopper’s report and act on my recommendations. At minimum, a memo should have been issued to the staff about this safety recommendation. At best, the policy of the facility should have been completely changed to protect the workers, and then enforced that policy.

It Raises the Question

What creates such an environment that management cannot digest a lesson learned or a hazard warning? Why would management fail to accept the possibility of a serious employee injury, and then take steps to prevent it? Management’s job is to learn, analyze and process, educate and monitor. Do we need to write that down on the bottom of their paychecks so they remember their role? Let us ask the young aquarium worker with the missing earlobe about what she thinks management should be doing for her. Maybe she will say her manager should not be getting a paycheck at all.

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2 Comments to “Delivering the Safety Message”
  1. Paul Ormonde says:

    Excellent article addressing one of, if not the, weakest attribute of all levels of management. It has always puzzled me how management culture fails to comprehend hazards associated with their operation.

  2. Dear Paul,

    Thanks so much for checking in and reading our Blog site. I’m glad there are other professionals such as yourself who agree that this problem lurks in many companies among many leaders. As the world grows, it seems that the disconnect between worker and leader is growing quite large. I’m not sure
    if the problem is apathy, laziness, or lack of knowledge of a leader’s role. A manager might fail to pass along the tiny details surrounding an upcoming attraction promotion, but to ignore the tracking and follow up on a safety concern is unimaginable to me. Thanks for checking in. Feel free to write any time.
    -Allen

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