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Simple Safety Vests Can Save Lives

By Elena McDowell

The business of protecting people in the work environment is difficult, largely because despite the fact that rational people understand that it is the right thing to do, they prefer not to. Unfortunately, vigilance is quite possibly the hardest skill for the human spirit, we become complacent far too easily. For this reason it all the more important for workers to wear safety vests.

A big misconception is that those professionals charged with preventing mishaps are responsible for making the workplace safe, meaning devoid of the possibility of damage, injury or death. In reality their responsibility is to manage risk, and the way they do that is to identify those risks and develop recommended strategies for mitigation. These they organize and present to leadership for a decision.

A difficult part of the human psyche is the notion that of near indestructibility, given the powers of recuperation and the intelligence to avoid problems before they happen. The result is a desire to engage in risky events for the purpose of intentionally exposing ourselves to risk for the sake of the resulting thrill. It explains the draw to sensational and potentially dangerous amusement park rides.

The most popular theme park rides are those which include great falls, dizzying heights, high speed turns or some combination thereof. Popular sports include physical stresses that can tear muscles and break bones, impacts that can result in concussions and even some with a goal of physically debilitating the opponent. Fans spend a great deal of money to watch and participate vicariously.

Not all of the rejection is predicated on spite, people have a natural feeling that the kinds of injuries and mishaps targeted in the work environment require are prevented by common sense. The idea they have become the focus of attention is due to recurrence is not accepted as a normal event, but the result of buffoonery at some level. The preventive measure is then sensed as punishment for the incompetence of others.

There is also the problem of ego. From the beginning of the hormonal tidal wave of their teen years, males have an innate need to place themselves in dangerous situations to prove they are macho. Whether to impress the opposite sex or to bond with fellow males, being known as a rational, safe individual is not a title to which many aspire.

All of this transferred to the work environment is the hurdle that professionals must overcome in reducing risk in the workplace. The situation is difficult enough without the added burden of people deliberately ignoring the solutions developed for their protection. Some personal protective gear has overcome the stigma, such as construction helmets, but not many.

The introduction of equipment or procedures designed to reduce risk is rarely popular. For management they are perceived to increase cost. To workers, they are perceived as unnecessary processes that waste time and energy. Something as simple as safety vests can case a counter-intuitive backlash from the labor force.

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