By Jaime Vos, AEM Safety Materials Manager
Some years ago when I was interviewing for my current job, the human resources person asked me to describe my greatest weakness. Without hesitating, I replied, "I'm often too expeditious."
Defined as "acting with prompt efficiency," being expeditious doesn't sound like a weakness at first. In my case, however, I often moved too quickly before gathering all the necessary information. I'd like to think that it's because I'm passionate about finding solutions, getting results, etc., but the truth is that sometimes I'm just too impatient. My father always warned me: "Haste makes waste."
In an office environment, this tendency can result in lost time and dollars, but when operating equipment, the consequences of acting too quickly are far more costly.
Equipment operators are often working against the clock - lifting, excavating, moving heavy loads -and trying to stay on schedule and on budget while navigating around their co-workers and other machinery. While most everyone wants to be efficient and productive in their job, the danger in these situations is that safety precautions can often be an afterthought.
Warning systems, personal protective equipment and safety devices are mandatory for employees in most organizations. However, the pressures of getting the work done quickly can compromise an operator's awareness, seeing only the job in front of them and taking their focus off the potential hazards. Operators need to make a conscious effort to understand the specifics of the equipment they are using; the load limitations, how the machine maneuvers in certain conditions, and other restrictions set by the manufacturer to prevent injury or death.
One of the consequences of the ongoing evolution and development of technology is it speeds up information and communication and, in doing so, our attention span gets shorter. If an operator is being expeditious and relies only on the equipment’s warning systems to alert them to hazards, they may be weakening their level of awareness.
To avoid this risk, operators can reinforce their commitment to safety by doing the following:
- Adhering to a discipline of safe operations despite the pressures of their work.
- Revisiting the safety literature that came with the equipment.
- Keeping up-to-date with the latest equipment training and getting re-certified if needed.
- Committing to their company’s safety program and participating in tool-box talks before the beginning of each work day.
When I find myself rushing through my work day or making too many mistakes, I make a conscious effort to slow down. I then try refocusing on the task at hand rather than just getting something done quickly. Luckily, in my job, there aren’t too many dangers by being impatient.
Equipment operators, however, must always remember to avoid the temptation to rush through their work. If they don’t, they may be rushing headlong into an otherwise preventable accident, endangering themselves or others in the process.