Careful: A User’s Guide to Our Injury-Prone Minds, written by Steve Casner, is an excellent discussion of safety in our lives, both at home and at work. It is a straightforward read, and I highly recommend it. Below I share some of the key take-aways that can help all of us improve safety at our companies and in our employees’ lives.
A good safety program focus on our employees lives at both work and home:
- The safest place in nearly all of our lives is at work. In the U.S., we spend 50% of the hours that we are awake at home, and 50% of our unintentional injury fatalities occur at home. By contrast, 35% of our awake hours are spent at work, but only 2.9% of our unintentional injury fatalities occur at work.
To be safer, each of us needs to do the basics every day:
- Pay attention to what we are doing
- The challenges to paying attention are that we can’t pay attention to two things at once, we get distracted, and our mind wanders
- To conquer this, we need to stop multitasking, to pay attention to what is most important, and we need help at times (a co-pilot or someone who is watching out for us).
- Avoid making errors through using reminders and checklists, and by having someone else check our work
- In addition, we need to ensure that the errors we do make (and we will make them) are not fatal and that we have a plan in place to survive them if they do happen.
- Know the odds when we take a risk
- We need to understand the relative risk of our actions; texting while driving and jaywalking (especially at night) are far more likely to get us killed than turbulence on a flight or shark attacks.
- Get a second opinion when we are about to take a risk
- Think through the consequences of things going wrong and (as above) ensure that the risks will not be fatal
- Think ahead to the consequences of our actions
- Listen to our “spidey sense” when we feel that there is a danger
- Before acting, consider the basic safety questions:
- How could this go wrong?
- Should I really do this?
- What can I do to prevent this from going wrong?
- What would I do if it did go wrong?
- Look out for one another
- In thinking ahead, we need to see the consequences of our actions on other people
- We need to “read minds” of other people to predict their actions
- We ourselves need to be predictable (especially while driving, walking or biking) so that other people can predict our actions
- We need to intervene and help others (when appropriate) and realize that being in a hurry will always bias us away from helping
- Be willing to take and give advice
- We need to swallow our pride and be more open to listening, especially to those with experience
- When giving advice, we need to explain why we may be qualified to give that advice (our experience and our expertise) so that it is more likely to be listened to
We need to be particularly aware of the most common ways that we get injured or killed at home and at work:
- Driving (especially while speeding, texting, drunk, drugged, drowsy or distracted)
- Using the wrong tool for the job
- Using the right tool the wrong way
- Not following rules, processes and good practice (through ignorance or complacency)
- Medical errors (patient noncompliance, medical and medication errors, mis-diagnosis, errors from hand-offs)
- Over-doing it and not knowing our limits. This often occurs while we are denying our cognitive and physical decline from aging
The book delivers three key messages:
- Despite all the attention to and advancement of safety in the last 30 years, we, as a country, are no safer. In fact, the rate of unintentional injury deaths has rebounded from its low in the early 1990’s.
- Yet, workplaces have gotten safer to become just about the safest place during our day with an unintentional injury rate that is one-tenth the rate experienced outside of work. As such we leaders need to continue to work to improve safety and the safety culture in our companies, while also reminding and cajoling our employees to be safer at home
- Finally, we need to remember that nearly all accidents (outside of the occasional meteorite that lands on our heads) are preventable. As the author, Steve Casner, concludes:
“We stopped using the word ‘accident’ many years ago and replaced it with the words ‘preventable injury.’”