Road Safety

Safety Riddle: Who am I?

You may know me.
I’m your constant companion.
I’m your greatest helper – I’m your heaviest burden.
I will push you onward or drag you down to failure –
I am at your command.

Half the tasks you do might as well be turned over to me –
I’m able to do them quickly and I’m able to do them the same every time, if that’s what you want.

I’m easily managed; all you’ve got to do is be firm with me.
Show me exactly how you want it done and, after a few lessons, I’ll do it automatically.

I am the servant of all great men and women and, of course, servant to the failures as well.
I’ve made all the great people who have ever been great –
And, I’ve made all the failures too.

But I work with all the precision of a marvelous computer, with the intelligence of a human being.
You may run me for profit or you may run me to ruin;
It makes no difference to me.

Take me, be firm with me and I’ll put the world at your feet – Be easy with me and I will destroy you!

Who am I?

(scroll down for the answer)

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I am HABIT

We do most things without thinking consciously about what we are doing! Let’s consider that for a moment. We would not be able to function without these habits. From walking, moving, driving a vehicle, to most of our lifestyle routines like sleeping, hygiene, eating and drinking, all of which we do automatically. The same is true in our work. From writing, spelling, typing, operating plant and equipment to following rules and procedures, or breaking rules and taking shortcuts.

Be careful. The best safety device is a careful worker. Get the safety habit.

In fact, SAFETY HABITS are fundamental to achieving our goal of ZERO HARM or ZERO INCIDENTS. People need to abide by the rules and procedures, without having a mental debate every time as to whether or not these are valid. Put on the seat belt, lock out the machines, test the lockout, put on the harness and hook up at heights, use the PPE and and and … a nearly endless list of life-saving rules. These SAFETY HABITS have to be taught and learned, like driving a car. It takes hours and hours of practice for us to reach the level where we can do it out of habit. Once we have acquired these SAFETY HABITS, we have to guard against falling into the trap of ignoring the basics and going for shortcuts – all in the name of trying to do it smarter.

The issue of habits is so important, that I have dedicated the very first chapter of my book to it!

Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,

Jürgen

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Taking your eye off the ball / road / task

One of the main causes for most accidents is lack of concentration or taking our eye of the ball / road / task at hand. Often, this is only for a few seconds. That’s all that’s needed to ‘lose control’ of a vehicle, fall or trip when we don’t look to see where we’re going, losing our balance or footing and falling from a height, losing our grip and dropping something. The list is virtually endless. You can choose any verb you like and it can be linked to some kind of incident, because it is all about human action.

When we do something which involves a degree of risk, even if it is as mundane as walking or driving, we have to pay attention and stay 100% alert, all the time.

There are many reasons why we get distracted, but one of the most prevalent ones is fatigue.

safety incident - boredomsafety incident - daydreamingEspecially when concentrating for longer periods of time, we do get tired and often really exhausted. This is made worse if the task at hand is familiar, repetitive, or boring and the working environment hot, humid or uncomfortable. In addition to fatigue, there are a host of other factors which cause us to lose focus, which means our minds wander. We could be daydreaming or thinking about the home, family, girlfriend, car, something which happened yesterday, last month, or some need we have.

safety incident - tired

There are no easy answers. As the employer, you have no control over how much sleep employees get, how much alcohol they consume or the family relationships, to name just three of the issues involved. I can, however, suggest a few things that you, as the employer, can do.

  1. Look at all critical operations involving risk and investigate ways and means to change the operation, automate the process or do something which will make it easier, and safer, for the ‘operator’ to take a mental break, every so often, without ‘losing control’.
  2. Ask those people “who push the buttons and use the tools” to help you identify these opportunities, including those where they are taking short cuts in order to cope with this problem of ‘losing concentration’.
  3. Look at the working environment, including stress levels, shift patterns and working hours, and provide innovative solutions to help people combat fatigue and stress. There are many opportunities like Health & Fitness centres, EAR, etc.

Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,

Jürgen

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Safety, for Safety’s Sake

Most companies have certain safety rules around driving, lifting, walking, personal safety behaviour, etc. Rules like:

  • reverse park your vehicle
  • switch on head lights when driving
  • bend knees and keep back straight when lifting something
  • hold onto hand rail when walking up or down stairs
  • use gloves, goggles and other PPE

While at work, people tend to follow these rules, especially when in leadership positions. They know they have to set an example. That’s true. Employees watch what leaders do and follow their lead.

Does safety matter when you are not being monitored?

The question is, though, what do you, the leader, do when you are at home? How do you park at the local shopping mall? Do you keep the car lights switched on when driving in town? Do you hold onto handrails when taking the stairs to the doctor’s rooms? Do you keep your back straight and wear gloves when working in your garage at home? If not, why not? Has the “safety reason” changed now that you’re not at your place of work? Most likely not, right? What has most probably changed is that you no longer feel watched. You no longer feel you have to comply with so-called “workplace” safety rules. You now behave “naturally”.

That is one of the fundamental safety issues – what I call the Speedcop Syndrome = when we do something out of fear of being caught and not because it is the safe thing to do.

As long as that is the driving force, then safety is not really a value inside people’s hearts. When people “reverse park” at home, that’s how you know that you have safety embedded in the culture of your company. But, trust me, it starts with you, the leader. Don’t expect the troops to behave correctly, consistently safe, if you have not yet made that leap yourself.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,
Jürgen

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Jump Starting at Grootvlei

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean ‘jump starting Grootvlei Power Station’. 😆 Auke Maas, the SHE manager and his team are switched on. I mean jump starting my Harley Davidson motor bike at Grootvlei. Yes, a Harley Davidson, “nogal” (= “on top of it all”), with a reputation of being a super-reliable bike. But let me explain.

I was late for my meeting with Auke and his team  😐  and, in my haste, I forgot to switch off the Harley’s ignition. As a safety feature, the main light is always on when the ignition is switched on. So, when I left the meeting, I proudly started, er, rephrase, tried to start the bike, because Auke, Arno and Peter wanted to hear the engine. NOTHING. Not a click.  😳 The battery was DEAD.

There I stood, far from home and miles from a service station.

Fortunately, I had the support of the Grootvlei team and, with the help of Arno, who got some tools, we opened the battery compartment. In the meantime, Peter, the chief fire master, got the portable jump start unit from the fire station. In no time at all, the Harley was running, and I was on my way home.

A helping hand from the folks at Eskom Grootvlei

What are the safety lessons?

  1. Even when in a hurry, take the time to follow the correct procedures and do the right things, one step at a time (stop the engine, switch off the ignition and lock the helmet, panniers and bike.) Doing things in a hurry often leads to incidents = NEAR HITS.
  2. Be prepared. Have a set of tools in your vehicle for emergencies. A small fire extinguisher is a good idea too.
  3. Have a backup in place. The portable jump start unit is a brilliant idea for emergency vehicles. One cannot have an ambulance or fire engine not starting because the battery ran flat.
  4. Establish a root cause, even if it was a near hit with no injury or damage, and make the necessary change to avoid making the same mistake again. In my case, it required a behaviour change – I make it a habit now to switch off the ignition to stop the engine.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,

Jürgen

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Walking the Circle of Safety

 

What is the Vehicular Circle of Safety?

Pretty much what it sounds like … circling your vehicle as a safety check before you drive it.

The ‘Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’ website has a comprehensive checklist and a diagram of what to check for. Although it is directed at company vehicles, the Circle of Safety is definitely not limited to that – we all learnt about the circle check when we prepared for our driver licence tests. Ergo, this is something we should all be doing with our personal vehicles too!

Why do it?

Well, apart from the obvious, i.e. is the vehicle in a fit state to be on the road, doing this has the effect of increasing driver safety awareness. Some companies insist on the positioning of traffic cones around their vehicles so that drivers are ‘forced’ to ‘walk the circle’ as they remove the cones.

 

The example below is a VERY good reason for at least checking that there are no children or animals anywhere near your vehicle.

Source unknown, but thanks to Morkel for bringing it to my attention!

Some material worth looking at:

If you’re not already walking the Circle of Safety, why not start today? It’s the SMART thing to do.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,

Jürgen

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“My Brothers’ Keeper”

Picture this.
A convoy of 47, lined up and ready to go.
Or better, hear the beat of the engines, as 47 Harley Davidson motor bikes rrrrroar down the open road.

This was the first pack ride for Heidi, my wife, and I.

What an awesome experience, riding with mature and responsible bikers. I felt comfortable and secure driving in the formation of a pack. There is safety in numbers. When the front riders see a danger on the road, like potholes, they alert all the other riders, by means of hand signals, to ‘watch out’, ‘slow down’, or some other precaution. This is truly ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ in action.

The ride kicked off with the road captain briefing everyone about the road conditions and some of the dangers to watch out for. As a newcomer to pack riding, I got a safety talk from Piet, who, by the way, is a Jumbo Jet pilot for SAA!

It was an absolute pleasure sharing a ride with like-minded, safety-conscious bikers. I love the self-discipline, attitude towards safe riding and the concern they show for each other, as well as the fellowship of the Harley riders.

I wish I could transfer this to some of my clients.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,

Jürgen

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Who is driving?

Last December, Ashref Ismail of the Road Traffic Management Corporation indicated that approximately “68 percent of all major accidents at any weekend are as a result of drunk drivers”. In other words, alcohol is a major role player in road-related deaths.

When attending a party or function, designate the drivers who will not consume alcohol. You could make a name tag or button reading “OFFICIAL DRIVER” to clearly identify those persons. The tags or buttons can be handed out at the entrance to the venue.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,

Jürgen

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Lala Kamnandi (Good Night)

We say “Lala Kamnandi” to each other.

Why do we have this habit in most cultures? It’s because sleep is important – to rejuvenate our spirits and recharge our batteries. Without proper sleep, we end up fatigued, frustrated and exhausted. 

This is a real risk in safety

When driving a vehicle or operating a critical machine, we have to be fully awake and alert all the time. Taking our eyes off the road (or ball) for even a few seconds can spell disaster. 

Apart from the safety issues, sleep also has a direct influence on our health. So often when people are asked “How are you?”, the reply is “Tired”, or they complain about back pain. 

Most of us spend 25%-35% of each day sleeping. So does it not stand to reason that we should take care of how and where we sleep? “How you make your bed, that’s how you will lie” is an old saying which holds very true. Just look at a dog settling down to sleep.     🙂

Many people will pay a fortune for their multi-media centers and lounge suites. … Hmmm. … Actually, for some, the investment in a TV couch makes good sense, since they spend many hours watching TV.     😉

Seriously though, we should rather spend more money on our beds and mattresses so that we can get a great night’s sleep, every night. 

One  area, where sleep deprivation and fatigue is a major cause of fatalities, is our roads. Many people get killed because of “losing control” = dozing off and closing their eyes for a few seconds. This was also mentioned by Minister Ndebele as one of the reasons why SA ranks third highest in road deaths globally. If you or your employees spend alot of time on the road, it might be worth investing in a fatigue warning system, like this nifty device – a Driver State Sensor (DSS) by BOOYCO

ACTION: Take a good look at your bed. If the mattress is older than 5 years, you should consider replacing it. The technology of beds and mattresses has evolved alot in the last few years, so make an investment in your sleep and health. Also make sure that you get enough rest each night, and “vuka vusa” (wake up, rise up) refreshed, every morning.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,

Jürgen

ps. Ask me about my ROAD SAFETY COOL TOOL™ TOOLBOX TALKS – a 5 CD set. 

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A Safety Lesson in a Mud Trench

I sometimes have to go to places out in the sticks. Recently I went to the Assmang smelter in Machadodorp.

It was raining and on my way back to the Old Mill Hotel, disaster struck!  As I turned into the drive the front wheels disappeared into a muddy trench.

There I was, in pouring rain, wheels spinning, stuck and going nowhere. 

I did not know, nor see, that a trench, which had been dug to replace a water pipe, had not been compacted or covered. Alas for me, that was only done afterwards = too late for me!

The hotel staff saw my dilemma and, thanks to Harry and Thokozani, my car was rescued from the pit.

== The Safety Perspective ==

There were no warning signs or barriers.

== The Safety Lesson ==

Even at home, do the safe thing.

The consequences of not doing so can be much worse than what they were for me in this incident.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,

Jürgen

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