About the Jump in Safety Violations

The Plant Manager (PM) was not a happy man.

Occupying the space in front of his desk, and looking quite uncomfortable were his Safety Coordinator (SC), his Operations Manager (OM), and three shift supervisors.

“I thought you were going to improve our safety record,” said the Plant Manager, looking at the Safety Coordinator. “Instead, safety violations have multiplied! Things are getting worse!”

“We haven’t had any more injuries on the job over the last six months,” said the OM.

“But look at the risk! Look at the way safety violations have increased! How do you explain it?” He was look at the SC again.

“Well, I created a new safety code,” said the SC.

“Is it a better safety code?” asked the PM, “Or is it creating all these errors?”

“It’s better. We’re recognizing errors that we weren’t noticing before,” said the SC.

“But a new safety code should make us safer!” The PM’s look said that he thought the SC might be mentally impaired, or perhaps intoxicated.

“I beg your pardon,” said a voice, a bit timidly. It was one of the supervisors.

“What?” snapped the PM as the OM and SC looked on in shock. Why on earth would a mere supervisor invite attention in a meeting like this.

“I don’t think a new safety code, however good, will make people safer. It just identified issues. In fact, many of the workers don’t really know what’s in it. Some of them don’t care that much.”

“What do you mean they don’t care? They have to care! It’s the work rules. If they don’t really care, fire them!”

“Well,” said the supervisor, a bit more confidently. If she was about to be fired, she might as well fully earn it! “There’s no incentive to work more safely. There has been no time taken to train people to work more safely. We’re already short on manpower, so people don’t worry as much about getting fired, because they know we don’t have a drawer full of applications to take their places. They also don’t understand just how the safety code is going to make them safer.”

“You just haven’t told them frequently enough that they need to follow the safety code,” said the PM.

“I tell them every day. They aren’t motivated. They don’t understand it. They don’t see how it applies to them. Some of them look at it and figure it’s just too hard to follow and not worth it.” She was thinking that the sense of already being fired, suggested by the looks on all the manager’s faces, and the fact that her fellow supervisors had moved to distance themselves from her, made it easy to be courageous.

The PM thought he would fire the supervisor, but he wasn’t going to do it in this meeting. Instead, he looked at the SC. “I want a better safety code, well-written, precise. One that the workers will follow. I want posters put up on every wall, reminding people of the safety code. This plant will, by God, have an excellent safety record.”

“But …” started the supervisor.

“Shut up!” said the PM.

(Now read Romans 7. Are you, as a parent, as a teacher, as a church leader behaving like the PM? The SC? What is it that actually changes people’s behavior?)

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of any character to anyone in real life is purely coincidental. Copyright © 2020, Henry E. Neufeld.