When you stand up for standards, you have a firm footing
Ian, the finishing and shipping superintendent for a paper mill in northern Ontario, Canada, told Session 8B of the Leadership Development Lab (LDL):
"As I was walking through the roll off ramp area, I noticed a yard employee walking toward me with no safety glasses on. He had a pair of tinted safety glasses hanging around his neck though. I stopped him and asked him why he was not wearing his safety glasses. He replied that he works outside and the dark safety glasses are too dark for inside the mill, so he doesn't wear them when he is indoors. I just responded, 'As you know, our standard is to be wearing the proper safety glasses whether you are in the mill or outside working'. He replied that he knew that and started to walk away from me, still without putting the tinted glasses on until he got the proper glasses. I stopped him again and asked him if I could help him find the proper glasses to wear. I then began to ask him why he thought the safety policy for mandatory safety glasses is in place. I kept the conversation going about how important it is to be wearing all of the prescribed safety protective gear. I said, 'You never know when an accident can happen and being prepared by wearing the personal protective equipment (PPE) will definitely increase the odds of not getting seriously injured.' I explained to him that I do not want anyone to get injured in any way,
especially if they are not following a safety procedure. I talked about my experience of being hurt at work and lying in a hospital bed not being able to move for 45 days. I do not wish that experience on anyone. Life is too short to be spending it in a hospital bed, not to mention the change in your lifestyle from an accident. He then thanked me for reminding him of what could happen in a short period of time.
I saw him walking through my area today and thanked him for wearing his glasses. I asked him to continue to remind everyone on his crew in their department safety meetings of the importance of following all of our safety standards.
The lesson I learned from this experience is the importance of never turning my head the other way when I see a safety infraction. I learned that I can make a difference by professionally correcting an employee who violates any of our standards of performance.
The action I call you to take is talk to our employees when they are not following safety procedures, and praise them when they are following our prescribed safety standards.
The benefit we will gain is a much safer, more productive mill, and everyone will go home the same way they came to work - in one piece."