Why is safety important – a true story

OHS – It’s More Than Just Compliance

I remember one time conducting WHMIS training.  “Marvin” kept making cat calls, “don’t tell me you care about this Tanya”, “what a waste of time”, “the MSDS are 5 years old, no one cares”, etc.  I finally got to the point where I ejected Marvin from the training and asked him to meet me in my office when the training was over. 

Once Marvin was gone, “Donnie” stood up and said Marvin had been right, that the MSDS were more than 5 years old.  He offered to update them if I got him the time away from his regular job.  I promised to do so.

After the training, back in my office, I sat with Marvin.  I asked Marvin whether he hated me, or did he hate the company, because every time I did safety training he publicly crucified me.  And, here I learned perhaps one of the most important lessons of my career.

“Tanya, you don’t get it”, Martin said.    “Those MSDS are old, they’re out of date, what if we need them and they’re no longer accurate.  This is a job for you but that is my brother out there, my cousins, my uncle, hell even my father worked here.  This isn’t just a job for me, this is my family, my community.”  Wow! 

I learned that day that that the safety is more than just compliance.  If I want my employees to be happy they have to feel like I am taking care of their health and safety, today and tomorrow.  If I want my employees to be productive they must be happy.  And, they are only going to be happy if there health and safety needs are met. 

I also learned a second lesson that day.  While Donnie was helpful he is not going to make an issue of the problems.  It is the Marvins of this world that are going to make the issues, that are going to keep companies honest.  While I wouldn’t want a whole workforce of Marvins we all need Marvins in the workplace, we need to harness them and respect that they are not in fact “troublemakers” but are much needed honest brokers. 

Safety, it’s more than just compliance…

A personal anecdote by Tanya Sieliakus, VP Consulting Services, Human Resources Consultant.

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