Perhaps many of you may have noticed that it has been a month since my last blog or maybe you haven’t.
I also missed my first Fire Engineering Talk Radio show in July. I hope to do the August show, but for right now, it is beyond my control.
You see; my life has seen some changes.
Changing jobs is never easy.
Those comforts that we surround ourselves with over the course of many years with a company are gone as soon as you turn in your company possessions, pack up your personal belongings and turn the lights off in your office for the last time.
Also gone are the relationships that you have spent time building and strengthening. You have memories that are of no consequence as you move to your new company, because it will take skill to establish your credibility as a new employee who is responsible for leading the company’s safety program.
It is interesting to note that I was told by an old colleague many years ago to limit yourself to what you can fit into one box when you leave a company (I filled less than one box). I think his advice goes beyond what’s apparent to a much deeper level, which are our emotional attachments.
I can tell a lot about a person when I look around their office or cubicle. They have created a “home away from home”. What they have really done is to place “walls” between them and their effectiveness as a “titan of industry”. They have found their comfort level, but have lost their edge, which is to say that they find themselves thinking and talking about personal issues instead of personnel issues. As a result, their performance suffers along with the company’s performance.
Now; don’t take that the wrong way. I want to learn about the people that I work with-you know; what makes them “tick”-but without the expectation that we will somehow become best friends. That is one of those mysterious nuances that might develop in spite of a work relationship.
And THAT might be what really separates firefighting from private sector jobs.
In firefighting, it’s important to know co-workers on a more personal level. That is an inherent ingredient to becoming a member of the brotherhood. It establishes that sacred trust and knowledge that your brothers and sisters will risk their life to save yours’. I get that!
In the private sector and in regards to safety, we establish policies and procedures so that employees WON’T have to take those types of risks. That’s why it’s called “risk management”.
It is for that reason, in my opinion, that the two cultures clash. Firefighters want latitude to determine what they risk and when they risk it. Private companies aren’t willing to extend that latitude to employees for one, basic reason and that is that each employee may not make the best decision. So, policies are written to compel employees to make the best decision and when they don’t and when weighed against past practice; the behavior is corrected by whatever means is spelled out in company policy.
Typically, what I have found when I join a company is a recordkeeping nightmare. From first aid logs to OSHA logs, it leaves much to the imagination and much to be desired!
That is not the case at my new job.
What has taken me away from my “outside” interests to a total focus on my job interests is the total lack of adherence to basic, personal safety. It has already translated into work injuries.
In other words; employees are ignoring safety policies, because they are not being enforced. That is a recipe for disaster and especially because they operate equipment that could kill them in a blink of an eye. Continuing to operate equipment that is unsafe to operate goes unnoticed by the same people who will not wear basic PPE. They have been left to believe that getting product out the door is worth the risks that are taken and when it isn’t addressed; the risky behavior is reinforced.
It is THERE that I am spending all of my time.
As we have found with firefighting, it takes solid leaders and a strong team effort to be successful. Knowing your enemy and training for the fight will get everyone home.
THAT is what I am working towards.
Until then, you won’t be hearing much from me.
The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. All articles by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without expressed permission.