I’ve worked many jobs, each one with equipment that posed some degree of risk – from letter openers and electric typewriters to farming tractors and hay balers. I won’t tell which job I was at when this story happened for the benefit of my coworkers.
Once I was working with a large piece of equipment that needed to be cleaned. Because of moving parts, we asked the mechanic to train us so we could safely move the equipment and do the cleaning without injury. He showed us which cover to open and how to set an actuator so we could do our work.
When we started, I worked closely with two others on a team, with one of us (usually me) watching to make sure the safety actuator was properly set, and that everyone was clear when we moved the equipment. After a while, I left the cleaning to do a different task. Later, I noticed my coworkers were moving the equipment and doing the cleaning, but they weren’t engaging the safety actuator. When I asked, they said that the equipment couldn’t move (and injure them) because they were both inside doing the cleaning and I was yards away, so nobody could turn it on.
It wasn’t just that no one could “turn on” the machine, but when we used (engaged) the safety protocols, the machine was disabled. Fortunately, nothing went wrong and we completed the cleanup without incident. But whenever I think back on that project, I wonder what could have been the worst-case scenario? I wish we had always taken an extra moment to make sure everyone would…