Would You Wear a Helmet?

Would You Wear a Helmet? 

Lean operating systems recognize the value of people, work hard to recognize risk, and protect them from injury.  We have helmets for riding a motorcycle, bicycle or skateboard.  We have helmets for ice-skating, snowboarding, sled riding, and horseback riding.  Football, baseball, and hockey players wear helmets. Wearing a helmet has two inherent benefits.  It recognizes there is a risk and it reduces the risk.

Recognizing Risk 

We put on a helmet to protect ourselves in a collision while riding a motorcycle.  We wear helmets to protect ourselves during an ice-skating fall or from sustaining a concussion while playing football or hockey.  Putting on the helmet recognizes there is risk.  That recognition is a critical step in preventing an injury – awareness of risk.

The same is true in a manufacturing environment.  Some facilities do not require steel-toed shoes for visitors.  Instead, they ask visitors to stay in painted walkway paths through the plant, sometimes circling the perimeter, but often walking right through the process as they pass operators wearing steel-toed shoes.  Curious visitors even walk right up to a process for a closer look, often standing right next to someone wearing protective shoes.  (I know because I have done it.)

An important message is delivered when a visitor is handed a pair of steel-toed shoes, safety glasses, earplugs, and even better, given a brief description of the risks and ways to protect themselves.  The message is – we value people and you need to be aware of the risk of injury.

Reducing the Risk? 

Putting on the motorcycle helmet while riding better protects our head from injury in the event of an accident.  But, it does not prevent the accident.  It simply reduces the risk of injury if we have an accident.  There are other precautions that help to prevent the accident, such as not being distracted, not riding in the rain, using turn signals when changing lanes, and driving the speed limit.  But if there is an accident, a helmet reduces the risk of a serious injury to your head.

The same is true in a manufacturing environment.  Safety glasses, earplugs, and steel-toed shoes are all designed to reduce the risk of injury.  And some of the risks are not necessarily the result of an accident but are inherent in the process, such as debris in the air getting in eyes or loud noises harming ears.  There are other precautions that avoid the risk,  such as not being distracted, having your mind on the task, not rushing, following safe work practices, and light curtains.  Personal protective equipment , like a helmet, reduces the risk of a serious injury if there is an accident.

Encourage your organization to protect everyone who enters the work environment.  Ensure they are aware of the risks and are provided with the necessary personal protective equipment to reduce the risk of injury.

One final  question…if someone does not wear a helmet, is it because they don’t see the risk?  Please comment because honestly, I don’t know the answer.

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” now available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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