It’s again that time of year when most Workers’ Compensation Boards release their annual injury and fatality statistical reports for the previous year. This year is no different and again we’re seeing yet another batch of annual reports telling us that nothing significantly different has happened to our injury and illness numbers. The worst part of reading these reports is to knowing that while we read them we’re again replicating the carnage. Again this year many of our fellow workers will die because of their work. Rather than just sigh and ask rhetorically “oh well…what can I do about it?” I’d like to try something different.
I’m personally doing a great deal to change this annual fatality number. Over the past year I’ve spoken to many groups both large and small trying to develop as much dissatisfaction with the current state of safety management as I can. The numbers of folks that are joining my uneasiness with the lack of results for our efforts is growing. It’s going to take a great number of us all getting dissatisfied with these results to move us collectively into a different action.
On behalf of those of us who really care that this number of fatally injured workers hasn’t changed a great deal over the last two decades, I’m writing an open letter to those who are going to die this year. Although at first, I must admit, I found the idea a bit morbid, I think perhaps it may just shake someone off of their “I can’t do anything” spot. If we all were to increase our diligence to help our fellow workers become safer and healthier, then perhaps we’ll collectively make a difference. Feel free to share this letter with the people you work with. Perhaps it will make them think about what they can do to change this terrible outcome.
I thought I’d start by offering an apology to the not yet fatally injured workers who are going to die this year unless we do something differently. This is only one of the things I’m going to do differently over this next year…how about YOU?
Dear “Not Yet Fatally Injured Worker”
I’d like to sincerely say to you that I’m very sorry that you are going to die this year. Although we don’t know exactly which of you reading this will die, we do know that some of you will die in a work related traffic accident. We know that some will die of an industrial disease and that some of you will be fatally injured in a dramatic workplace incident like a fall or explosion. Here’s what your co-workers would say to you after you’re gone, so I thought you should hear it now. Hopefully reading this letter may get you and the people you work with to prevent your future fatal injury.
I want to tell you that we’re sorry that:
• we didn’t see that the deadly energy you were exposed to wasn’t properly controlled
• we didn’t take the time to make sure that you understood the safe behaviours you needed to follow so you would go home every night to your family
• we didn’t get the right tools to do your job safely
• we assumed because you were a seasoned veteran at your job we didn’t have to remind you to take those important precautions of wearing your personal protective equipment
• we rushed through the last safety meeting so we could get back to work sooner
• we forgot to look where you were before we backed up the vehicle
• we didn’t have a more experienced worker with you to guide you through the safe procedures
• we didn’t put up the guardrails
• we didn’t think that you would fall asleep behind the wheel because we scheduled long work shifts and worked you overtime to the point of your exhaustion
• we talked to you on your cell phone when we knew you were driving
• we didn’t provide a lockout process for you to follow
• we didn’t check to see that you knew how to do what you were doing your job safely
• we showed you a shortcut to follow that killed you
• we followed a different level of safety during the week than on the weekend when no one else is around
• we didn’t recognize sooner in your career that the chemicals and substances that we had you working with were hazardous to your long term health
• we didn’t learn from the last time this happened to someone
• we didn’t make sure that someone was held accountable to fix the thing that fatally injured you
• we made fun of you because you usually took the time to be extra careful
• we let you work without the fall arrest equipment
• we let you enter that confined space without following the procedures
• we didn’t ensure that the safety rules we have here actually are the way it is around here
• we didn’t check to make sure the equipment you were working with was properly maintained
• we gave you work that exposed you to uncontrolled hazards
• we didn’t think about your safety when we asked you to rush that last job
• we sent you down into that trench without shoring
• we ignored the fact that you usually don’t wear your seatbelt
• we didn’t remember that the overhead power line we touched with the crane was there
• I had to write this letter
Most importantly we’re sorry that your mother & father lost their child. We’re so very sorry that your brothers & sisters have lost their sibling; that your sons and daughters will grow up without you and that your spouse will never hold you again…
For these things we’re truly sorry and wish we had done something differently.
Alan D. Quilley CRSP