Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Safety and the Fear Factor

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Safety and the Fear Factor

Article excerpt

Do you have a clear picture of safety in your facility? if not, fear may be clouding the picture.

One of our editors recently had a conversation with a man who works on the night shift at a local factory. His company is reknowned for its management acumen, and it prides itself on its relentless pursuit of quality and market leadership.

So when this employee cut his hand at work, we would have expected him to report the injury and to get prompt medical care. He did neither. He wrapped his hand in a bandana, finished out his shift and then drove to a hospital emergency room where his hand was sutured.

That behavior is commonplace at his facility, he reported. Why? Because workers believe that if they report such injuries, they will be labeled as injury-prone or troublemakers. When the opportunity comes up to move to the day shift or to get a promotion, they fear such black marks in their personnel files will put them at a disadvantage.

Would this worker really be denied that move to the day shift? The question is irrelevant. What matters is that managers in that plant have failed to create a culture in which workers believe they can freely report injuries. Without that kind of trust and communication, real progress in safety is unlikely to occur.

Driving fear out of the workplace is by no means easy. This past February, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan noted: "The rapidity of change in our capital assets, the infrastructure with which all workers must interface day-by-day, has clearly raised the level of anxiety and insecurity in the workforce. …

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