It’s All in the Details

Business man holding business card that reads Attention to Detail

As is often the case when I’m noodling a few ideas for Safety Net topics I turn to famous quotes. Smarter people than me have had brilliant things to say about safety, leadership, or the consequences that occur when safety isn’t a priority and luck runs out. I’ve also taken quotes somewhat out of context and spun them around to make them relevant to safety. If you’re in the mood, check out the previous posts using movie quotes- “Frankly, My Dear, I Don’t Give a Damn,” Famous Movie Quotes, Part Deux,” and “How Movies Can Make us All Safer, Part III.”

Today’s inspirational quote isn’t from a famous orator or actor, nor a sports figure or politician. But it was delivered with gusto and determination and, 37 years after first hearing it I admit it still rings true today. My thanks go out to SSGT Bowling, USMC. A mountain of a man who had a booming voice that invoked fear and respect all at the same time. He was my drill instructor at Aviation Officer Candidate School and the first obstacle I had to overcome on my journey to become a Naval Aviator. Those of us in Class 37-85 will never forget those words, oft-repeated and taken to heart by necessity- “Attention to detail is the key to success, discipline is the key to survival!”

Workplace safety isn’t rocket science, but it does require the same attention to detail and discipline that SSGT Bowling drilled into my class of young aviator wannabes. By the way, only 19 of 50 candidates graduated, so clearly not all of us adapted his lessons successfully. Translating this to today’s working environment isn’t a significant leap. No matter your industry or profession, I can safely say that these two practices will definitely make the job better by increasing production, quality, and safety.

Attention to detail is a behavior that will allow you to see more of what is around you every day. We often walk by safety hazards without even recognizing them, much less initiating corrective actions. Finding the trip hazards, blocked exits, or damaged equipment is vital to workplace safety. The same is true for following best practices and watching out for others who may not be doing the right thing. We often say, “pay attention!” but it takes a bit more effort than that. Take the time to stop your daily activities and look around you. You’ll find those hazards that were lurking all along, just waiting for someone to victimize. Conduct regularly scheduled walk-throughs, ask all employees to report issues that could cause injuries, and systematically correct any that were found.

Discipline can have a negative connotation, but it is a necessary element of any safety program. Simply stated, this is the act of consistently doing the right thing. Follow the established best-practices for your industry or occupation, resist the complacency that often sets in, and keep your mind on the job at hand. Safety rules are written in blood (another often used safety slogan, but so true) and it is our duty to follow them to the letter. All of this definitely requires discipline. But we also must hold everyone accountable for their actions. That’s another element of discipline that can be more difficult to engage in consistently, but must be done in order to have a successful safety program.

Thank you for indulging me in this walk down memory lane. SSGT Bowling’s words served me well throughout my Navy career as well as the last two decades working in the workers’ compensation insurance industry. We all want to be safe, and no one thinks they will be hurt at work today. But the sad reality is that there will be over 7,000 OSHA recordable injuries at work today! Do your best to avoid becoming one of those statistics by paying attention to detail and building a disciplined safety culture at work.

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