Jaime Vos, AEM Safety Materials Manager

SafetyWhen most people hear the word “discipline,” they associate it with punishment. 

The word gets a bad rap sometimes, as corrective action can be necessary when rules are ignored or intentionally disobeyed. In this case, though I'd like to focus on discipline's other meaning. 

Merriam-Webster 2: to train or develop by instruction and exercise especially in self-control.

When challenging myself with a new goal, before determining the level of discipline I'm going to enforce upon myself, I first determine what's at stake. If I'm learning a new language or skillset, the payoff may just be personal satisfaction. But in order to master any kind of skill or talent, you must be able to exercise self-discipline with respect to the basic elements required. Professional athletes, musicians and craftsmen must constantly be vigilant in improving themselves through routine. When they don’t, the work suffers.

Consider the following quote: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle

I take this to mean: The habit of achieving excellence requires self-discipline.

But what about self-discipline when it comes to the subject of safety?

When you add safety into the equation, the stakes are much greater. If I'm going to operate equipment, I make sure I know the hazards involved. A forklift, drill press, hedge trimmer or lawn mower all carry significant risk if I'm not disciplined about using them correctly. 

In a manufacturing environment, workers are challenged with a number of moving parts and processes that carry significant risk. The employer hopefully provides them safety training and resources to ensure the worker fully understands the risk (both to themselves and the company) should they use the equipment incorrectly.

But what about individual responsibility? Has the equipment operator truly asked themselves what is at stake? In some cases, serious injury or even death can occur if safety rules are not followed. If the person has family members or loved ones who depend on them, the stakes are even higher. 

It’s the equipment operator's responsibility to be self-disciplined in understanding any and ALL safety requirements. He or she is the key to safety, and good safety practices protect not only the equipment operator, but also everyone who works in proximity to that individual.

Your employees need to be disciplined in the following areas, so take the time to share the following messaging with them:

Follow your company's safety program. -- Never operate machinery under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Be aware and alert to any potential hazards in your specific working condition. Participate in all required training.

Know important safety alerts and signal words posted in your work area or on the equipment you operate. -- The following words have significant differences in their meaning for safety:

  • Danger
  • Warning
  • Caution
  • Notice

If you’re not sure of what a certain safety alert or signal means, ask a supervisor or safety professional.

Protect yourself. -- Wear all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). Hard hats, gloves, safety glasses and boots may be required in order to operate machinery safely. 

Know the rules. -- Most employers have rules governing equipment use and maintenance. Before you start work, check with your supervisor or safety coordinator and be sure about the rules you'll be expected to obey.

Know the equipment. -- Make sure you understand the capabilities and hazards of the equipment you'll be operating. Read the owner's manuals, safety literature and any other resources made available to you.

Employees should never take a casual approach to safety. Discipline is required in order to be fully committed to following all safety rules and regulations, to be aware of any potential hazards in the workplace, and to ensure safe operating practices every day.

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