May 28, 2014
It’s a Different World – a Safer World
We were born to mothers who smoked and drank
Our cribs were covered in lead based paint
No child proof lids, no seat belts in cars
Rode bikes with no helmets and still here we are, still here we are.
The lyrics are an old refrain from people who like to nostalgically point back to the “good ol’ days” when times were simpler and we didn’t think about safety concerns—a time where we didn’t feel the need to wrap ourselves in the cliché “bubble wrap.”
Now, I’m as nostalgic as the next guy, arguably more than most, but there’s a glaring problem with those lyrics: the pronoun “we” being used is intended to include both the narrator and the listener. Who it does not include are those who are not “still here” or whose lives were drastically altered. These individuals are not here to add their voice. Or, if they are, there often aren’t enough of their voices to be heard.
The mindset held in those lyrics should be combated. Not because we should live in fear from all unknown hazards, but because once we recognize a hazard we don’t gain anything by pretending it doesn’t exist. We only stand to gain when we, at the individual level, educate ourselves on the hazard and take proactive steps to mitigate that hazard.
My wife is pregnant with our third child. Will we keep our baby at home and avoid going out into the real world? Of course not! There’s a whole world out there to learn and experience! Will we buy an old crib with potentially lead-based paint? Not a chance.
I have two other kids. Do I let them play outside? As often as they want (and often when they don’t). Do they wear helmets when they bike around? Every time (with occasional reminders).
I have a job. Do I avoid power saws and grinders and motor vehicles? No. I can’t be effective without them. Do I keep them properly guarded, wear my PPE, and learn how to operate them safely? Yes!
Here’s the point: We don’t want to be so afraid of hazards that we can’t work, play, live. On the other hand, once we discover a hazard, only a fool wouldn’t take steps to control that hazard! Nostalgia is great, but let’s not get so caught up in our nostalgia that we don’t recognize the significant ways we’ve discovered to protect ourselves and our quality of life! The next time someone fondly remembers how much simpler it was to work without safety concerns, remind them how many more people were hurt or killed on the job “back in the day.”