We had an accident at work today. I was in earlier than normal as I needed an update on production for a critical customer shipment. I arrived to the floor about 10 minutes before shift change and found a large number of team members gathered – not working – in one section of the hallway.
I looked down to one of the production rooms and saw a team member laying prone on the floor. A team leader was crouched beside him checking respiration. My boss and all the production floor management was there and the emergency response team were proceeding as they had been trained. I could see that our team was handling the emergency situation and I needed to do my part by getting out of the way.
But even as I moved out of the area so the team could do their work, the image of an injured and unmoving team member stayed with me. I couldn’t see if he was okay and I didn’t know what had happened. I could only hope.
I returned to my desk upstairs to await the arrival of anxious team members (wondering why there was an ambulance and fire truck outside) to provide what information I could. An injury had occured and we were dealing with it appropriately – more information will come.
Word came that a fall had occurred and although the team member had struck his head, he appeared to be okay. He was up and talking and being taken to the hospital to be checked out. And everyone’s stomach unclutched a little bit. But the knot stayed with us most of the day.
I feel relief that our team member is okay and will make a full recovery. But I also feel shame that on our watch – at my company, a team member was injured doing his job. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t report to me, or a partial reason that the injury occurred was of his own actions.
It was critical that we get the customer order out! It was critical that we get the piece of equipment running!
But did our message of Safety, then Quality, then Delivery get lost in the pressure filled situation? Did he feel so much pressure that he did something unsafe? Do the team members that do report to me know I mean what I say? That I truly believe that it always is safety before anything else? Do they know they can refuse work they deem unsafe without direct or indirect reprisal?
When I say something is “priority”, “critical”, “paramount”, “Hot!”, do I have to say “after safety of course”? I thought it went without it saying every time.
November 2nd, 2012 Extra-Ordinary: We get a second chance to make sure the message gets through and I hope my embarrassment lingers to remind me what can so easily happen.