Do You Think Before You React?

In this Readers Platform, your authors discuss why it’s important to be methodical and focused.

by Ray Downs and Robert Pitney

The alarm clock goes off. It’s 4:45 a.m., and you hit the snooze button to give yourself an extra 15 minutes of sleep. But, do you really go back to sleep, or do you subconsciously start planning the day ahead of you?

Are you thinking about how you and your team are going to install that Hollister-Whitney machine in the overhead, or topping off the rails in the #3 shaft or about that text message you received last night from one of your men informing you that he will be out sick today? Maybe you’re thinking about the conversation you had yesterday with that angry building manager, talking your ear off about the freight elevator that was shut down. He has three moves this weekend and is ticked that no one from your company showed up to address the problem.

And then there’s your family. You promised your daughter/son at dinner last night that you would make it to her music recital or his baseball game this afternoon. You’ve missed the last one and promised yourself it wouldn’t happen again. You know you’ve got to get home early today, and now you’re running late, because you actually did fall back to sleep when you hit the snooze button. All this rattling around in your head before you’ve even gotten out of the house and into your car/truck to start your day.

Whether it’s a work situation, family concern or illness, your emotions can, and do, run high. It’s during these moments that you need to give yourself a timeout so you can calm down and get your feelings in check. When you or a team member have something other than the work at hand on your minds, it will impact how you execute a task, and that could affect the way you approach the task, which could result in an injury.

When your mind is running around in circles, not focused on the task at hand, you need to reset your thought process before proceeding. This will allow you time to make decisions, or deliver responses, in a thoroughly thought-out manner. Now is not the time to shoot from the hip.

All of the above can contribute, in either a positive or negative way, to the way you view and approach your day’s activities. I am sure you can think of one near miss you experienced in your career. In the elevator industry, far too often we hear of someone who has been seriously injured or killed, whether it’s in our hometown or on the other side of the world. The fact that we work in such a dangerous trade should be, in itself, enough to give us pause and make sure our minds are focused on the task at hand.

We’d like to pose this question to you: Do you always think things through, or do you sometimes simply react, automatically? When you think things through, you allow yourself the necessary time to clearly define and identify the proper steps to take in a particular situation by asking:

  • Which personal protective equipment (PPE) should you and your team be wearing?
  • Which tools are required?
  • Which safety processes will need to be followed to ensure the task is completed successfully and without injury?

When you react without thinking, an accident can occur. You are like a pool player who, before he takes his first shot, is already thinking about the second, third and so on. He has to do this to continuously have good ball position. Consider, though, if he is worrying about his second shot while he is taking his first, the results could be a missed first shot.

When we take that same scenario to the motor room, hoistway or car top where you are about to perform a routine task, thinking about one thing while doing another could contribute to an injury.

As so often occurs in our trade, when someone experiences a serious or fatal accident, we attempt to understand the thought processes of those involved. Was the task planned out, or was it just a series of unplanned steps in a process that, once set in motion, led to an automatic reaction that then led to an injury?

In closing, we ask all of you to have a clear mind and take proactive safety measures before planning out the work for both you and your crew and by asking five simple questions:  

  1. Has a hazard analysis been conducted before setting up any task?
  2. Is all the proper PPE for the task at hand and being worn?
  3. Was the needed training or direction for the task received from your manager, supervisor, superintendent or foreman?
  4. Does everyone understand their role(s) today?
  5. Are you and your team mentally prepared to perform the task?

The reward for answering “yes” to these questions is to be there on time to attend your daughter’s recital or son’s baseball game, or just to return home to your family, safe and sound. Remember, your family depends on you!

Ray Downs and Robert Pitney

Ray Downs and Robert Pitney

Ray Downs is senior vice president of Environmental, Health and Safety Control at TEI Group. He has more than three decades of experience in environmental health and safety programs, human resources and product management. He holds numerous professional certifications, including from the OSHA Training Institute.

Robert Pitney is a director at TEI Group, where he is tasked with bringing increased efficiency and effectiveness to the company. He has an extensive background developing, managing and troubleshooting information-technology systems, and has had numerous articles on enterprise resource planning published.

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