One of my many duties at my “day job” is serving as point man for our workplace safety program.
Since I have a hair-trigger for gabbing about bloodborne pathogens, bodily fluids, corrosives and other appetizing subjects, we no longer have a Christmas party or even a holiday party. No, it’s a “Watch out — there may be a pop quiz on lock-out/tag-out procedures for mistletoe!” party.
Given my history, I am lucky to be around to fill this position, instead of a pine box. During college I worked in a factory for three summers. I carelessly let my sneakered foot slide into a warm mineral spirits bath. Even with repeated rinsing, I wound up with skin that was as pruney as the menu at a MACC (Mothers Against Constant Constipation) convention.
On another occasion, at the same factory, I was daydreaming and nearly lost my hand to a roller mill that I had previously seen convert a nickel to a pancake-sized blob. (Perhaps it’s a false memory, but I could swear I heard Aunt Jemima shout, “Mrs. Butterworth can have that one!”)
Years later, at another job, I got the bright idea of climbing atop the cage of a forklift to change an outdoor sign. I accidentally kicked the gear shift on my way up and initiated a slow-speed roll that would have made O.J. Simpson proud.
To my credit, years earlier, I had averted a forklift disaster. A co-worker was operating a forklift indoors when a mouse dropped from a ledge onto the steering wheel. The driver surrendered the vehicle (also waving a white flag and throwing in the Eiffel Tower, as I recall), leaving it about to plummet off the loading dock, until I could stomp on the brake at the last second.
I have known other people for whom “Safety First” was not a guiding principle.
One fellow was discovered sitting on a tree limb, preparing to trim the limb. A kindly soul convinced him that perhaps sawing between the trunk and himself was not the best strategy.
Then there was the time my father and another guy were delivering a refrigerator. My father slipped on a wet spot on the steps and the major appliance landed on him. His “assistant” panicked and climbed on top of the fridge, adding his own 250 pounds. (“GE: we bring good things to life … assuming, that is, we don’t, you know, kill you first.”)
Every household and workplace needs a well-planned safety strategy. It’s just human nature that shortcuts, laziness, and an attitude of “it can’t happen to me” lead to accidents-waiting-to-happen.
Sometimes sentimentality plays a part. (“I know we probably ought to replace the wiring in the break room, but it’s still attached to Ben Franklin’s kite. Are you a commie or something, man?”)
I have a knack for sensing when a co-worker truly needs extra attention. You know to watch out when someone has a nickname like “Lefty” or “Stubby.” Try building up the nerve to straighten out someone nicknamed “Sort of push it around with your forehead.”
Occasionally, I have visitors to my safety lectures. For instance, my lesson about preventing slips, trips, falls and lack of traction was attended by … The American Economy.
I will neither confirm nor deny that a comment at the meeting was “I WISH we could get a mouse ahold of the steering wheel!”
— Satirical columnist Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at email@example.com and visits to his Facebook fan page Tyree’s Tyrades. He is syndicated by Cagle Cartoons and the author of Yes, Your Butt Still Belongs in Church. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.