It’s common knowledge that taking shortcuts increases risk of injury or incident. Consider the common risk of speeding. How much time is really saved by going over the speed limit? As illustrated in this demonstration, time saved is minuscule, while the risk taken grows exponentially. The impulse to take shortcuts is innate in humans. However, these little steps are not only important to the success of the project, but are crucial to the overall safety of all workers on the jobsite.
Shortcuts are not as simply identified as working quickly and skipping steps, though. In fact, they are often disguised in ways that make employees not even realize they are compromising not just their own safety, but the safety of everyone on the jobsite.
The following are just a couple examples of how shortcuts sneak in:
Complacency. Shortcuts are often taken when workers become complacent. For example, employees may be tempted to forgo prejob inspections if issues are rarely identified during the inspection. However, we must remember that bad habits are difficult to break. Even just skipping this crucial step once in a while creates a bad habit that becomes a major safety risk.
Lists and Procedures. Lists and written procedures are extremely important and necessary for safe work practices. However, we must not lose our situational awareness while captivated in the details of the list. Use situational awareness in all tasks to avoid missing a hazard right in front of you.
Overcomplicated Tasks. It is instinct to take shortcuts. When tasks and procedures are created, leaders must remember to keep them as simple as possible. Overcomplicated tasks often invite shortcuts to be taken.
Unrealistic Deadlines.Unrealistic deadlines or management pressure increases the tendency to justify a shortcut. These pressures must never take precedence over safe work practices.
Whether company leaders realize it or not, eyes are always on their actions. If leaders take shortcuts every so often (even if their words condemn it), the rest of the workforce feels permission to also take shortcuts.
PLH Group — a leading, full service power line construction, pipeline construction, and specialty contractor that serves the electric power line, pipeline, oil field electrical, and industrial markets — values safety throughout its 11 electric power and pipeline entities. Because of the specialized energy-focused construction work they provide, PLH Group requires all employees to be active participants in the organization’s safety culture.
“As part of PLH Group’s PREVENT safety program, all employees not only have the authority, but the responsibility to Stop Work if a task seems unsafe,” said Elsie Bentley, vice president of Safety, Health, and Environmental. “A shortcut taken by one employee has the potential to impact not only the entire jobsite, but also the surrounding community. That is why we stress to our workforce that it is imperative to Stop Work if a task appears unsafe, or it is no longer safe to proceed.”
Remember, no one is invincible. Even if a shortcut hasn’t caused an incident in the past, it doesn’t mean that it never will. As a safety conscious worker, always remind teams that taking shortcuts often only saves seconds. The negative consequences, however, could last a lifetime and affect not only the injured people, but also their family, friends, and coworkers.