Weight and See
Steven Cesare, Ph.D.
A business owner from Texas called me the other day to talk about his company’s safety program. True to form, the savvy business owner had the primary bases covered: well-designed safety tailgate talks, non-bureaucratic injury reporting procedures, and a leadership team that walked-the-walk on creating and maintaining the company’s safety culture. Nice job, Tex!
After conveying multiple sincere compliments regarding his commitment to safety to the business owner, the conversation veered to the record-keeping portion of the safety culture. Here again, the business owner had rigorous standards about the details associated with the OSHA 300, 300A, and 301 Forms for the running five years required by OSHA, and was intensely straightforward concerning the absolute precision by which employees were judged to maintain document accuracy.
Consistent with every company’s safety program, the business owner had his own unique story about a disastrous safety incident that only recently fell off his company’s three-year Experience Modification Rate, thereby saving the company tens of thousands of dollars in continued annual worker’s compensation premium costs.
Here is the story he shared with me.
Like many successful business owners, this owner attributed much of his company’s operational success to the quality, tenure, and dedication of his Foremen: long-standing, proud, and industrious; underscored by mutual respect, trust, and honor. We all desperately want that foundation.
He hired it; he trained it; he rewarded it.
Lamentably, one day approaching the end of a work shift, his most talented and senior Foreman, was uncharacteristically delayed on the job site, likely to incur overtime pay for his crew. To minimize that potential cost, the Foreman decided to load two Zero-Turn Radius mowers onto the company trailer, rather than make a second trip back to the yard. The drive back to the yard began just as so many others have, before this fateful day.
On this particular return trip, the Foreman was driving the truck and trailer up a hill preparing for the predictable decline on the other side. Unfortunately, on the other side of the hill, a woman with three underage children experienced engine trouble that led their car to stall. For reasons unknown, the woman decided to stand in the middle of a car lane talking on her cell phone; the same car lane the Foreman was driving in. Once over the hill, beginning his normal descent, the Foreman saw the woman standing in his car lane. Too late.
She’s gone now.
Aside from the unquestioned human tragedy, the OSHA investigators revealed the trailer was 300 pounds over the legal trailer weight limit; likely due in large part to the presence of the second Zero-Turn Radius mower. Each of the three young children who survived the horrific calamity had a different father, who hired a different attorney, each of whom separately stipulated the illegal, excessive weight necessarily prevented the Foreman from being able to safely dodge the decedent. All three claims were victorious.
The wrongful death payments were “well north of seven figures.”
That catastrophe, painful and indelible beyond belief, galvanized the reconstituted business owner to implement a safety culture premised on legality, not expediency, defined by accountability, not rhetoric, and fixated on people not regret.
Three of those people lost their mother that day.
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