Jakes Take on Safety
April 17, 2019
I’m not going to say I had given up on him. But, since our first meeting, to this day it seemed like I was never going to get through to him. I had been left to feel like Charlie Brown, facing off with Lucy and the football one too many times before. Just when I thought I was going to connect, the ball would get pulled away, and I would hit the ground hard. I didn’t know it yet, but this day would be different.
Late in the afternoon some of our field staff started to return to the shop as I worked on something in my office. As I sat there staring blankly at my monitor a knock came on my office door. It was him. Although our relationship wasn’t exactly cordial, we still passed niceties whenever we saw each other, but now he was at my door. Why? Was there an incident he was waiting until now to tell me about? Or maybe did a client want a detailed plan on something? What did he want to tell me; it wasn’t going to be good. I just knew it. When the first words came out of his mouth, “where were you today?”, “how come you didn’t come by my site today?” I knew I was right. I braced for the bad news about to come next. It didn’t
“You would have loved it today!”, “you should have seen us!” he declared! He proudly ran his hand along his face and pointed out that he was clean shaven today for wearing a respirator, and so was his crew he said. He went on to describe all the signage, hoardings, and air filtration devices they’d had in place today bristling with pride. “I wish you’d come by to see us; you would have been really impressed.”
The first day he and I worked together I did an intervention of sorts as he and his crew were loading scaffolding components in the back of a truck. As gently as possible, but still a bit firm to show I wasn’t a pushover, I pointed out the hazard to the head and our policy on personal protective equipment which required hard hats while working. Like Charlie Brown, with that seemingly misplaced optimism, I thought surely I would connect with him because his health and safety were on the line! Instead, as so often happened to poor Charlie, things went south pretty quickly. Despite some expletives, and a section of scaffolding, being hurled about, I did my best to stay positive, but it was so hard. Perhaps deep down inside I’m foolishly optimistic, stubborn or too new in the profession to give up. Perhaps the next time I go to kick the ball, Lucy won’t take the ball away at the last second? I don’t know what it was deep down, but I knew it was important to get him on my side when it came to workplace safety. He was related to the owner, the clients loved him, and other staff looked up to him; I had to win him over, but I never figured out how to. Or so I thought.
Persistence had paid off. After over a year of trying, and failing, and then trying again he had reached a point where he was thinking about, and doing these things on his own. And, he was proud of it.
As a Safety Professional, I often get asked what my biggest accomplishment has been so far. Some amazing program to lower the total recordable incident rate? An investigation that really got to the core of the failures that allowed us to learn, put new controls in place and perhaps never see that type of incident again? Accolades from my company for a job well done? Those are great, but this visit from this employee was my biggest accomplishment by far — just one person.
My name is Jake Siegner. I grew up here and attended Nova Scotia Community College where I graduated with Honours from their Occupational Health and Safety Program over 9 years ago. Since then I’ve been extremely lucky to have travelled and worked all over Canada on sites ranging from small residential jobs to some of the biggest construction projects in the country. From an advisor position working for a not-for-profit industry association to representing the General Contractor working directly with owners and many points in between.
During my time in safety, I’ve always sought out the knowledge of people around me, and now I want to share some of it with you. In future articles, I’ll share some of what I’ve learned about safety that may benefit you and your organization.
I’m very excited to be given this opportunity, and I promise I will not give up on you. Someday you may come back as my biggest accomplishment in safety, but really it will be yours.
JAKE SIEGNER, CRSP
Manager – Safety Training and Consulting