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Toolbox: Keep on Guard

Why do we have these brief safety talks? Why do we have to always think about safety?

One of the major reasons is that in order to be safe, you have to be alert. You must be on guard at all times. By talking about safety you develop and strengthen safe work habits.

One of the worst things that you can do is let your guard down by becoming preoccupied with other things. We all have personal problems that plague us to one degree or another—health, bills, the future—and perhaps our worry about these problems led to illness or fatigue.

Such preoccupation is a major factor in many on-the-job mishaps that are sometimes mistakenly labeled “freak accidents.” When you become lost in thought, you are off guard. You’ve left your defenses down and are wide open for an accident. A blind or deaf person learns to compensate for the handicap by fine-tuning the other senses. When you are preoccupied, you are blind and deaf but don’t know it. You are unguarded.

stay alert

But how do you guard against preoccupation? How, indeed, can you detect that preoccupation has reached the point, either in yourself or others, that you’re easy prey to hazards or hazardous conditions?

If we knew the answer to this, it would mean a major breakthrough in the field of safety. It would be nice to be able to take a reading of someone’s brain waves to see if they were lost in thought and open to an accident, but we don’t have that ability. So we must do the best we can.

We do this by trying to make safety something that comes naturally to all of us, even when we are not consciously thinking about it. These safe work habits will then be so strong, that even if you become preoccupied at times, your safe habits will prevent you from having an accident.

Reducing the possibility of accidents that are caused by a preoccupied mind is a matter of preventive safety, and that’s one of the reasons we have talks like this one.

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