By Tonya Cheek
When I first started as a safety supervisor, my motives were pure. All I wanted to do was help other people. My goal was to show fellow employees how to work safely. Hazards were my enemy and I swore never to let company “politics” lure me away from the pure and noble causes I pledged to. How much my efforts reduced pain and anguish was the only benchmark I intended to use. I even posted the following poem on a wall in my cubical:
There is only one way to
When you reach the end of
Have you made a difference in
the way others live?
Will it be safer for them to
work, drive, and play?
For weeks I remained stainless. My time was spent in noble endeavors. Though I had to keep track of all the accidents and classify them, this was simply a necessary task required by law. Saving life and limb was still my main purpose.
The change came slowly. No one incident stands out as the pivot which altered me. Rather it was more like a gradual twisting of my attitude and concerns. I think the change began the first time the plant manager called me and asked for the “latest stats.” I quickly fished them out of my “active file” and delivered them to his office. It was the first time he displayed any real concern about my work.
From then on whenever I calculated our safety statistics I was anxious over the results. I told myself it was only natural to want better numbers. I reasoned that when our DART rate went down so did the pain and suffering: As I calculated person-hours and lost-work day rates I tried to remember that the numbers were just symbols.
I’ve been a safety supervisor for eleven years, and now I spend a large chunk of my time chasing numbers. (You should see my wonderful charts and graphs!) I can’t help it. When an employee is injured my first thought is “I hope it’s not recordable.” You may think I’m heartless, but it’s not my fault; as I’ve stated earlier, I started out “clean.” It’s just that, well, the only time my boss and the other managers give me any real attention is when I show them the statistics. Do you suppose it’s the attention I crave? Or, heaven forbid, am I really an integer addict!
Tonya Cheek is a guest blogger who gets the urge to contribute now and again.