“Time is Money.” That’s what we always hear. Whether working in a factory or on a construction site, the sooner the task gets completed, generally the more money there is to be made. Companies pride themselves on completing projects “On time and under budget”. There is always pressure on employees to work quickly. “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” This idea is well-intentioned; no company wants to pay their employees to stand around while there is work to be done. However, this concept can easily add to the pile of pressures felt by employees to produce. Employees often feel pressure to stay busy and always be productive. Competition between employees is ever-present. If you want to advance, you have to show some hustle. Working hard is held up as a great character trait. No one wants to be seen as the lazy slug who gets nothing done.
I have felt this pressure to hustle throughout my working career. I wanted to advance in my career, and so I put pressure on myself to do more, or work faster than the next guy. This pressure sometimes pushed me to take shortcuts. Usually the shortcuts involved a safety procedure that I disregarded. I was never directly told to ignore safety, but that seemed like it was always the easiest thing to get out of the way to speed things up.
When my career path moved me into the Occupational Safety field, I began to see the error of my ways. As I studied accident reports, or statistics showing the 10 most common citations written by OSHA, I tried to put myself in the situations I read about. I could easily see that pressure to make production quotas, or just reduce costs and be more competitive, could lead to the kinds of shortcuts that could lead to OSHA violations. The same shortcuts I had taken in my past life. Some OSHA reports were from injury or death investigations, and I continued to see myself in those scenarios. I continued to see how I could give in to the pressures to be productive, to hurry up, to get the job done.
What I have found throughout this process is that it is up to me to push back against the pressure to take shortcuts when I feel it. Whether the pressure is from a supervisor or from within my own head, I HAVE to take a breath and realize that a shortcut which ignores safety could result in an injury. If I get hurt, then I have to go to an urgent care center, or a hospital. Maybe this will result in a week or two off work. I probably won’t be receiving a paycheck while I’m home healing. If the injury is severe enough that OSHA comes in to investigate, the work area of the investigation may need to be shut down while the investigation is completed. The delay involved with the OSHA investigation is going to be far more than any time savings from the shortcut I took. There are many costs to the employee, as well as the company, for an injury. The costs for a substantial injury far outweigh the benefits of a shortcut.
The mindset that employees have to adopt in order to combat the urge to take that shortcut is, “There is enough time to do this safely.” The time I may save by taking the shortcut isn’t worth an injury.