One of the most important things we deal with every day but have not yet discussed on this blog is safety. If you ask some people, safety is best achieved through handbooks, checklists, and other resources widely available to the construction and mining industry. We have government entities (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Mine Safety and Health Administration, etc.) tasked with the responsibility of keeping the American construction worker or miner safe by setting guidelines and rules for proper workplace conduct. By following these rules, it can be assumed everyone can leave work every day the same way they entered, healthy and injury-free so they can continue on with their lives without their job negatively impacting their quality of life.
But rules and regulations, although helpful and necessary, cannot keep everyone safe all the time. Anything written on a checklist or a manual is a great tool, however real safety is not a static list of steps we take or guidelines to follow, but an ever changing, dynamic, developing situation where hundreds of decisions are made every day by each individual. Because of this, we cannot simply list out everything we need to do to be a safe operation.
Instead of relying on a list or a handbook, safety must always be a mindset for everyone. If the importance of safety can be properly communicated and taught, we are able to lead an organization with safety as a core principle. So how do we impress upon our co-workers the importance of safety in the workplace? By starting with the basic details, and then providing an honest, concise mission that all decisions can be based around.
There are many things we need to do every day that may or may not be that important at that time, but can ultimately have a larger impact on the big picture. Basic functions of safety plans everywhere include various forms of PPE (personal protective equipment). At MRD, we require employees to have a hard hat, safety glasses, safety vest, long pants, steel toe boots, and hearing protection, just to name a few. These are all pretty standard issue requirements for just about every construction and mining company. Another requirement MRD has is to chock our wheels when we are on a job site. This is an MSHA requirement that all wheeled vehicles be blocked against rolling if the brakes were to fail when parked.
We have adopted this rule of always chocking our wheels as our company standard when on any jobsite. Now, we understand if we are on a construction project on a flat golf course, our vehicles are most likely not going to start rolling away on flat ground. Additionally, we routinely check the effectiveness of our parking brakes to ensure they are properly working. There are many situations on mine sites or construction projects where we are forced to park on a severe slope, making it obvious chocking of wheels is a pretty important safety precaution. But where do you draw the line? What slope is gradual enough to not warrant the use of wheel chocks? Which job sites are wheel chocks not required on?
When is putting out our chocks overkill? Well we went ahead and answered that question: Never. This requirement has a practical use as well as a mental reminder. By taking the decision making out of it, MRD employees now understand when we hop out of our trucks on a job site, the very first thing we do (once we make sure our PPE is on) is chock our wheels. This small act of safety, responsibility, and professionalism sets the tone for how we as a company are going to conduct business on the jobsite that day. Much like making your bed when you first wake up, chocking our wheels when we leave our vehicles at the jobsite is a tone setter for every decision made from that moment on.