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Knowing Your Craft Means Knowing How to Stay Safe in Your Craft

SafetyI recently finished trimming out a closet my wife asked me to put in our front entranceway. As I was making the saw cuts and coping the inside corners on the baseboard, I was aware of the little tricks my dad had taught me to make my trim work fast and professional-looking. I was also mindful of little tricks he had taught me to keep from cutting myself or losing control of the pieces of trim I was working on.

I can still remember being a boy in his workshop and learning how to use his various tools, from his table saw, to his miter saw, to his drill press, to his router. And I can remember, as I learned how to use these incredibly powerful (and potentially dangerous) tools accurately and professionally, he would also give me plenty of guidance on how to use the tool safely (e.g., visualizing where a saw blade would come down so I’d be aware of my hand placement, or wearing safety glasses to prevent shrapnel from blinding me). 

Obviously he wanted me to be able to use his tools well, to get a high-quality work product out of them. But why did he take the time to teach me to use his tools safely? Was he, like me, a safety professional? No. He was a tradesman. Was OSHA telling him that I needed safety instruction? Nope. OSHA didn’t have jurisdiction in my dad’s workshop. And though he was paying for my health insurance, his health care costs weren’t based on some Experience Modification Rate, or on how few injuries I had. The answer is an obvious one, of course. He wanted me to use his tools safely because he didn’t want to see his son lose a finger or spend his life blind. And he rightly guessed that I would like to avoid those injuries, too. We worked safely because we cared about our own safety and each other’s safety! And doing so was no less important than making accurate and clean saw cuts efficiently.

Managing safety for a large electrical contractor like Faith Technologies isn’t really all that different. Sure, it requires managing OSHA visits and worker’s compensation claims, training (and re-training) our workforce, jobsite audits, open and continuous communication, relationship building, and the list goes on. But, at the individual level, what really makes all the difference is everybody realizing that we’re each working in our dad’s workshop – working safely for ourselves and for those working along with us. We’ve got a job to do, and a lot of pressure on us to do it professionally and in a timely manner, but we recognize that excellent workmanship inherently includes safe work. We want the perfect work product: top-quality, maximum efficiency, and with all risks identified and controlled.