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Safety First: Facts About Fiction

Here's a little fiction about safety. Seven citations, Joe fumed. Seven citations yesterday, just in your area of the plant. Joe was in good form today.


Here's a little fiction about safety.

ìSeven citations,î Joe fumed. ìSeven citations yesterday, just in your area of the plant.î Joe was in good form today. ìExplain to me how you got seven citations; I really want to know.î

Sharon tried to shrink as low in her chair as possible. All she could do was shrug her shoulders. Frank nudged Tom and whispered, ìGlad it wasn't me this time.î Frank paused. ìIt could have been any of us.î

Joe held up seven sheets of paper and talked about each one. Tom couldn't tell you what each violation was ó something about a guard and a handrail ó something electrical, too. Tom heard Joe make a point that some of the violations were S&S ó whatever that meant. Finally, Joe put the papers down and paused. Frank nudged Tom.

ìHere it comes again,î he whispered.

Joe scanned the room. Frank and Tom were fully attentive. In fact, almost everyone was sitting up straight now. This was the finale. Joe then pointed at the green and white sign on the wall next to the door.

ìSee that sign?î Joe asked. ìEach of you walks by that sign every day. What does that sign say?î The room was quiet. They all knew that the question was rhetorical. The sign had been there for 15 years. ìëSafety First.í That's what is says. Each one of you is responsible for keeping your area safe. That means no accidents and no citations. Why is that so difficult to understand?î

Frank was about to raise his had, but Tom stopped him. This was another rhetorical question. ìLook,î Joe said, ìI've said it a thousand times and I'll say it again: If it's not safe, don't run it.î With that, Joe gave out the assignments for the day and left the room.

ìWhy'd you stop me?î Frank asked.

ìI know what you were going to say,î Tom said. ìIt would have just made him madder.î

As they left the building, they saw Joe slam the door of his pick-up. They watched as he backed out. Frank nudged Tom before they parted.

ìI see Mr. Safety hasn't fixed the brake light on his truck yet.î They both shook their heads as they walked to their haul trucks.

Yes, this conversation is fictional. But those of us who have been in the aggregate industry long enough have likely been a party to a similar meeting. Art does imitate life.

SAFETY FIRST IS a nice sentiment. It sounds and feels good. But it's a phrase that easily makes us hypocrites. If not the first time, the second time we, as leaders, don't follow our safety-first rule, we lose credibility. It's such a hard rule to follow. We've broken the rule the moment we make that decision that someone questions, we walk past a hazard (even if we don't see it), or we turn away from the workers' unsafe actions.

The fact is that all employees are at the mine to do a job ó production, maintenance or some other support role. They are defined by that job. What's important is the way they do that job. That way needs to be safely. Whether they are pulling a lever or handling a shovel, the focus must be on performing that job safely. The companies with the best safety records have recognized that safety is an integral part of each task performed, whether it's operating mobile equipment, splicing a belt, installing a pump or operating a crusher. With that mind-set, operating and support systems are designed with safety built in. When a task is assigned, the process includes inspection, identification and correction of hazards, proper tools and equipment, personal protective equipment, and training in procedures required to successfully perform that task safely.

When safety is ingrained in the process, ìsafety firstî moves from fiction to fact.


Randy K. Logsdon, CMSP, is manager of safety for Intrepid Potash New Mexico operations. He has practiced safety on both the coal and metal/non-metal side of mining for more than 30 years. Randy is a Certified Mine Safety Professional. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.