Safety First

I’m sure it’s not unique to this organization, but we seem to have a fetish about safety around here. I suppose it’s only being responsible and law-abiding, but I sometimes think there must be a better way. I’m off to another safety seminar this afternoon and I’m dreading it. Provincial legislation requires that we attend so many hours of safety awareness training each year, and so we all make our way down to the main library and sit in a darkened theatre (that’s not very safe!) and listen to a safety officer talk about the correct way to do things. Sometimes you get really lucky and you get to watch a compilation video of bad stuff happening to people. It’s like a porn loop but with dudes falling off ladders and falling down stairs and getting electrocuted, if you’re into that kind of thing. My favourite is the infamous video of a woman gassing up at a service station and then going to sit in her car while the pump keeps pumping. Apparently that is a TERRIBLE THING TO DO, because you can get static electricity on your clothes and sure enough when she gets out to remove the nozzle a fireball erupts! It looks like the footage is from one of those security cameras, so it may even be real. The only thing is that it is so unlikely to happen, they might as well be showing footage of people getting attacked by sharks or getting hit by lightning too. The fact that we all work in libraries make some of these videos even more ridiculous. We don’t even have a ladder at our place, let alone gas pumps. At the end of the video, the instructor stands up and addresses us like children. “This is what can happen if you don’t put safety first.” It’s like I’m listening to the Dad from “Freaks and Geeks” up there. “I knew a guy who lifted a box the wrong way one time. You know where he is now? He’s DEAD!”

Sometimes you get to listen to/see a practical demonstration of how to sit properly, lift a box properly, push a cart properly. It’s all very proper and put on by a nurse. I was at one of these things a few years ago and the nurse kept picking on me because I was “slouching” in my chair. “Look at this man! Look at his poor posture! I bet he has sore feet and a sore back.” I assured her and everyone in the room that my feet did not hurt at all and I was quite comfortable. But she wouldn’t let it go. She made me sit up straight until my back really did start to hurt. Being Irish, I slumped over even more and glared at her, defying her to mention me again. But she apparently did not pick up on my non-verbal cues and before I knew it she had me in front of the room demonstrating the correct way to pick up a box, golfer style. I purposely did a half-assed job of it until she gave up and chose another model. I won!

The Golfer's Lift. Look at the technique on this son of a bitch!

In addition to these “safety gatherings’ for supervisors, every employee must also read a monthly “safety talk”. These come to me from one of the managers as an email and I am supposed to print it out and make sure everyone reads and signs it. It is to comply with provincial regulations more than anything else, but you would think they would at least try to make the safety talks relevant. I know they are supposed to cover every City department, but reading about “working outdoors in inclement weather” is just plain silly for library folk. My favourite one was one on “killer bees” (I’m not making this up). It tells you what to do if you’re attacked by a marauding swarm of the crazy buggers. “Remain calm”, apparently. Fuck that shit, I’m getting the hell away from those motherfuckers. Remain calm, my ass. Sometimes they are pretty philosophical, like “What does it mean to be safe?” That one provided me with some sleepless nights, let me tell you. Others are more practical like “What to do if you encounter blood or jizz in the workplace.” (I’m paraphrasing, obviously.) The most recent was pretty self-serving. It was called “Why your safety committee is so important.”

The funny thing is that when you actually get yourself into a bad situation, you forget the correct thing to do anyway. A few months ago, some shelving toppled over onto an employee and they had to be taken to the hospital. (Thankfully this was at another library, whew!) The employee ended up with a couple of bruised ribs, but the library staff went ahead and cleaned up the books and shelving (as you naturally would) before they even thought to call the safety officer. By the time he got there, everything was nice and tidy. This was apparently the wrong thing to do. Not coincidentally, the next safety talk was called “What to do if some shelving falls down and you get fucked up!” (paraphrased, again). I guess you’re supposed to leave the scene as it is unless the safety officer has a little lookie-loo. It’s all very CSI.

Remember to call the safety officer if a shelf falls. If you see books levitating mid-air, you're better off calling these guys.

So think of me this afternoon. Will it be the mishap video, box lifting demonstration, by-law review, or some fresh hell they’ve dreamed up for us? Do you know what I’d like the next safety talk topic to be? “How to survive a safety talk without falling asleep”. That’s just not safe, falling asleep in a chair, and you know what I always say: “Safety First!“.



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4 responses to “Safety First

  1. Joanna

    I’ve also learned to NOT USE YOUR CELLPHONE WHEN PUMPING GAS, as static can occur there as well. Bomb threat? You better not use your cellphone to call 911 as it could detonate a bomb. Useful tip from me to you.

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