Safety first, then teamwork

By Emilie Gerhart

You’ve heard and probably repeated the quote from the zany action comedy "Pineapple Express": “Safety first, then teamwork.” Although "Pineapple Express" has absolutely nothing to do with industrial engineering, the phrase rings true in every industry and risky situation.

 All too often, taking safety precautions are seen as tedious and a waste of time. Being safe can be viewed as nerdy or ridiculous. Often safety is knowingly put on the back burner to save a few seconds or to maintain a fashionable appearance.

Merriam-Webster defines safety as the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss. Looking at the fundamental definition of safety, Webster suggests that there is a singular condition that can cause hurt, injury or loss.

 It is a reminder that there is a responsible action or person for unsafe conditions.

As industrial engineers who constantly design and alter processes to create a better product, it is monumentally important that we always consider safety. Proactively preventing unsafe conditions might not be the hip thing to do, but it is better to appear cautious than be identified as the creator of the condition that caused hurt, injury or loss. So wear your clunky steel toes, your not-so-stylish harness, your hopelessly untrendy safety glasses, and analyze your processes to protect the operator, not the bottom line.  

Next comes the teamwork. Safety is a team activity. Not just one person can make an area safe; it requires input and support from everyone involved. Workplace safety is a serious issue, but knowing that all employees are focused on protecting themselves and others will lead to a more confident and dependable workforce.

As a manager of change, it is your responsibility to facilitate safety motives. Don’t look at it as another item on a to-do list, but let safe practices encompass your activities each day. Once “Safety first, then teamwork” takes hold, it will be impossible not to add value to your projects, employees, employer, and most importantly yourself.