Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Young male worker pointing at safety glasses worn on his face

As a safety management consultant, the prize is always injury prevention. No one wants to be hurt, and no one tries to be hurt. Yet this year there will be millions of people hurt at work, while driving, or while doing everyday household tasks. 

I can tell you that it happens in a heartbeat. That nanosecond before the injury occurs is just a bit too late to act. This can happen to anyone, at any time, doing almost any activity. A friend of mine just broke her leg in a fall on ice while walking from the mailbox. Even an experienced safety management consultant isn’t completely immune. All I need to do is look in the mirror to see that sad fact.

True confession time. I currently have a shiner that’s very obvious to everyone. Most people don’t say anything, but my fellow consultants are not everyone. So, I’ve felt obligated to explain why I almost lost an eye working on a plumbing leak while at a friend’s house for dinner. 

Long story short, I wasn’t really prepared to do the job at hand. Before dinner my friend asked me to look at a leak under his sink. So, I did, and found the problem. Four years ago, I’d installed the plumbing, so perhaps I could have anticipated this. But the leak was actually from another area, so my workmanship was somewhat validated. That feeling of satisfaction quickly vanished as I felt the channel lock pliers hit my left eye with substantial force. There I was, lying under the sink, with most of my body inside the cabinet, trying to pull on a fitting, and not having the right tool for the job. The result should have been predictable. In fact, it was predictable, and I just missed the warning signs.

So, the above justification for my injury, weak as it is, is probably the most common reason people are hurt. As consultants we always hear the same refrain - I was in a hurry, I didn’t know the procedures, I thought it was okay, I was distracted, I’d done it a million times, and so on. I truly wasn’t prepared for the work I ended up doing that night, and the desire to help my friend was a big motivation. But I should have known better. The job called for a special tool. It also called for safety glasses. I was wearing glasses, but they were regular prescription glasses. It was a good thing I was wearing them, they did absorb a lot of the impact and kept something between the tool and my eye  But they did distort significantly, and the lens impacted my eye directly. The bruised and swollen eye lid tells the story.

What does this all mean? It means that safety is important, and it is important all the time. I am embarrassed by the black eye, but I’ll get over that. Losing my eyesight wouldn’t be so easy to get over.  I always wear safety glasses when working with tools. I even have a prescription pair. But that night my mind was on dinner, not plumbing, and the safety glasses were at home. In the end, I couldn’t fix the leak until the next day, my buddy didn’t have running water, dinner was late, my pride shattered, and my eye pretty darn sore. 

So, the next time you’re tempted to engage in an activity that might be hazardous, first give it some thought. Walking to the mailbox is hazardous if the pavement is icy. Even helping a friend has some hazardous elements! Simply think through what you are about to do before you do it and take the proper steps to protect yourself. As I’ve said a million times, there are no accidents, only predictable outcomes. I should listen to myself more often. Be safe out there at home and at work! The MEMIC safety team is ready to help - check us out at

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