Tool Talk: The Ripple Effect Of Safety

When we discuss injuries with the importance of working safely we often discuss how an injury would affect an individual’s family. This type of discussion can be effective in getting an individual worker to listen, but I want to discuss the not so immediate effects that working unsafe can have. There is often a major ripple effect of consequences from not working safely, even if an injury does not occur.

The Ripple Effect

The ripple effect is a commonly used concept in today’s society. Merriam-Webster defines the ripple effect as, “a spreading, pervasive, and usually unintentional effect or influence.” In the field of environmental remediation, our projects are spread out across multiple states. You may never see or work with the other 50% of the company’s workforce. It is easy to fall into a state of mind that whatever occurs on your particular project would only affect those people and that project alone.

One day, while prepping for an audit during the first few months of being employed at the company, I was reminded how far my actions or decisions can actually reach. Our client had very strict standards for safety, which made for a safe job site, but it also put a lot of pressure on management and the work crew. Out of frustration, I made a statement half-jokingly along the lines of “the worst thing they can do is fire us”. A woman who has been with the company almost as long as it has been around was quick to respond. She stated, “No, that is not the worst thing that can happen. The worst thing is that we could perform poorly and our company’s reputation could be damaged.” A light bulb went off right then. Our decisions, actions, performance, etc. affect more than just ourselves. In theory, I could have been fired if the audit went terrible (which it went very well), but that is not the worst thing that could come of my decisions.

The worst outcome would be affecting the company on a larger scale in a negative fashion. Those audits were a part of our scorecard that was used to bid other jobs with this client. If we did not perform well at that site, we could have hurt more than just ourselves. We could have hurt the company.

Why You Should Focus on the Large Ripple

This idea of a larger ripple effect is something I try to pass on to the other employees on our sites. Even if they do not enjoy working for the company as much as I do, they should still have a feeling of obligation to complete their best work for the other employees in the company. If someone is planning on quitting, and decides they do not care anymore, and/or are willing to take risks they need to understand that there are other employees with families depending on that paycheck. Just remember a simple action or decision that leads to a negative event can have far reaching long-term consequences.

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