Nobody Did It
You supervise a crew of two other people. At the start of the shift, you inform them that a particular task must be accomplished by the end of the shift. At the end of the day, your crew has gone home, and you note the task was not done. The next morning, you ask them about the task. Both of the crew members say the same thing, “I thought he was going to do it,” indicating the other person. Nobody did the task you wanted done. Sound familiar? It’s the same phenomenon, whether you are talking about people in the workplace or at home. If a task is not specifically assigned, it does not get done. People assume it’s someone else’s responsibility.
This has application to a few areas in the safety world. Let’s take a look at some examples:
1. You are working on a construction crew, framing single story houses. Even though you and the whole crew is drinking plenty of water, Fred, an older worker, seems to be a little different today. He’s a little sluggish, his face is very red, and you notice he is not sweating. Suddenly, he wobbles like he is dizzy, groans loudly and collapses. You suspect he is having a heat stroke. You rush to his side to help him. “Someone call 911,” you shout. You grab some water, pouring it on him and start fanning him to cool his hot skin. You and a worker move him to some shade and wait for the ambulance to arrive. It seems like the ambulance is taking a long time. “Did someone call 911?” you ask the workers who have clustered around Fred. Everyone looks at the person next to them. They all say the same thing, “I thought he was going to call.” In other words, nobody did it. You grab your cell phone and make the call yourself.
What could you have done better? Instead of waiting until you are in the middle of a medical emergency, at the start of the project designate someone, with an alternate to cover when the designee is unavailable, to be responsible to call for emergency medical services when it is necessary. When people know what responsibilities are assigned to them, they will accept that responsibility and do what is required. In fact, the California Heat Illness Prevention regulation requires that an emergency medical plan be implemented that includes designating who will call for an ambulance should one be required. (See link to the lower right)
2. In our CPR training programs, SCM teaches that as we initiate the chain of life through early access (by calling 911), that we point at someone and say, “You call 911, then report back to me.” Not only do you then know who has taken that important step to call for emergency services, but you know that it has been accomplished when they report back to you. It is too important allow for this step to be missed because people have assumed that someone else made the call.
3. You work in a water treatment plant that has a lot of chemicals. You are sitting in a training class, learning about what to do if there is a spill or release. You are one of about ten people being trained to what is called the First Responder Operations (FRO) level, which means you are expected to go to the site of a spill and help to take actions to control the spill and prevent it from reaching storm drains. It occurs to you that, if all ten people are on the same shift and you all go to the same spill, how do you know who is supposed to do what? You raise your hand and ask the trainer.
“Good question,” the trainer says. “I was just getting to that.” The trainer explains that the regulations require that someone take charge. This person is called the “Scene Commander” or “Incident Commander,” and is the person who is trained to size up the scene, and give instructions, making sure that people are properly assigned to get the job done. The Scene Commander makes sure that someone does “it,” whatever the task was that needed to be done to get the spill contained and cleaned up. The assignment of the task is not left to ambiguity, where nobody would complete the task.
These are just a few areas where, when left unassigned or unspecified, there could be bad or negative results. We are sure you can think of more. Remember that when you need something to get done, particularly in the area of safety, assign the task to somebody who knows how to get the job done.