Impact of Decisions
Professional Safety July 2020 Article
— Dwight J. Grimmer
Many years ago, early in my career, I worked on a farm in southern California. During my first day on the job, the farmer issued me a new tractor and informed me that my job would be to cultivate all the crops. He taught me how to set up the blades and shovels on the back of the tractor.
As the blades cut alongside the plant, they would push the dirt into the furrow. The shovels would then come behind and retrench the furrow. Performing this job safely required two people: one to drive the tractor, another to walk behind, observing the action of the implement, and the communicating adjustments that needed to be made. I was told during training that one person could perform both tasks because the tractor would stay in the furrow by itself. As I continued with this job, I made a habit of climbing over the cultivator once the tractor was moving to walk behind it. I figured that as I took my time and was careful, this was a perfectly safe way to perform the job.
I worked for this farmer cultivating for more than a year when I realized that there was no money in being a farmhand. Then, I decided to move to Alaska and on to bigger and better things. The farmer asked me to train my replacement before leaving the farm. I taught him the same way I had been taught: to climb over the cultivator and observe what adjustments needed to be made. It was six months after I had moved to Alaska that I received word that the man I had trained was killed. He had slipped over the cultivator and had fallen into the blades and shovels. This news was hard for me to take as I had taught him to perform the job this way. It still bothers me to this day when I stop and think about how my decision helped lead to this man’s death…
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After reading this, I couldn’t help but wonder how many decisions I’ve made throughout my safety career, that at the time seemed inconsequential, and that by the grace of God didn’t result in my death or serious harm. Even more troubling, how many decisions have I made that turned out to have a tragic outcome for someone else, of which I’ll never know.
Hard to dwell on the past, but the article does make it clear that our decisions, whether based on action or inaction, do have consequences. Like the author states, there are right ways and wrong ways to do your job…let’s choose the right way knowing that each decision we make has safety consequences.
Steve Polich, CSP
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