I don’t usually talk much about my day job here but I work as a rehabilitation consultant, assisting people with injuries and disabilities get back to work. So when Nuffnang asked me if I would be interested in writing a post about Workplace Safety on behalf of WorkSafe, it was right up my alley. In the 20 years I have worked in the rehab field I have seen people who have sustained all manner of injuries from workplace accidents. People are most often injured when they are distracted or in a hurry.
Have you ever been in a work situation and have been asked to do something that you know is unsafe? Sometimes supervisors who are working to production deadlines will ask employees to take short cuts. It can be difficult to stand up to a supervisor and often workers will obey orders/instructions that they are given even if they know it is not safe. In a previous job when I was a uni student, I worked in a nursing home and even though we were supposed to use a hoist to lift/transfer patients, if the hoist was in another room, we were often asked to make do without it to save time – which I obeyed. In hindsight I took a big risk of developing a back injury.
In the 1960’s, Stanley Milgram conducted a series of experiments to show that people are obedient to requests, even if those requests were harmful to themselves or others. 60-70% of people tested were prepared to follow orders that involved harming others (via electrocution) if told to do so by an authority figure. You can see more about the experiment here:
WorkSafe recently conducted a similar experiment asking people on a busy street to pick up a live wire and pass it to someone. Amazingly, 90% of people did what they were asked. You can check it out here:
Further research conducted by WorkSafe has shown that supervisors will often ask employees to do risky or dangerous acts in certain circumstances.
· 1 in 5 Supervisors would bypass safety to get a job completed more quickly
· 1 in 4 Supervisors would bypass safety if a $1000 performance bonus was at stake
· Supervisors rate keeping up production and meeting client deadlines ahead of safety.
The key message for supervisors is that people will take risks if you ask them – so don’t ask them. Be aware of your own safety and the safety of those you work with.
We condition our kids to listen/obey authority figures – teachers, coaches, employers etc . My teens have part time jobs in a supermarket and in a fast food outlet. Sometimes employers can take advantage of their young staff so I have shown my kids these youtube clips, and we have had a discussion about work safety, following your gut reaction, and not obeying supervisors if they ask you to do something unsafe. Fortunately both of their employers are safety conscious and the teens have done workplace safety induction courses.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were asked to so something by a supervisor that was unsafe?