Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Copy Cats

Contributed by Norm Nyhuis, Safety & Health Consultant and Trainer, Evergreen Safety Council
When I was a kid, my older brother used to complain when I would copy whatever it was he was doing. Yes, as an annoying “little brother” I would imitate his laugh, or the way he would walk, or the way he would hold a sandwich - balanced on top of his outstretched fingers - just to see his reaction.

Of course, we can all recall times in the school classroom when many students, who had not invested sufficient time in studying, would attempt to copy the answers from someone else’s paper. This action was always fraught with danger, not only from being caught, but from wondering if the person you were copying had studied any more than you had!

When I became a parent, and our son made a similar complaint that his little sister was “copying” him, his mother and I would tell him that copying was really a compliment: the person doing the copying is really demonstrating they wanted to be just like the person being copied. We only realized that he had taken this advice to heart, when we caught him in the back yard feigning that he was eating dirt from the flower bed, knowing his three year old sister was watching. Our next discussion on this topic, emphasized that as the “big brother” he had the opportunity and the responsibility to set a GOOD example.

We adults have probably heard, or maybe used the famous quote from the 18th century author, Charles Caleb Colton, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” As we tried to teach our children, instead of being annoyed, we advised that when someone copies us, we need to see the situation as a “teachable moment”, an opportunity to set a good example.

Regardless of your job title, every day on the job, each of us has an opportunity to set a good example of working safely. Do you always operate equipment and machinery with all the factory guards securely in place? Do you always wear the appropriate PPE, such as hearing protection, even if you are only going to be in the noisy environment “ . . . just a few moments”? How about safety glasses, goggles or face shields? If your employees see you violating your company safety rules, what incentive do they have to not do the same? This also applies to the experienced workers: new workers always look to the “experienced” employee to see how things are to be done.

Ask yourself; what lessons, what example, have I set today? There will always be copy cats out there, let’s make a sincere effort to give them something good to copy.

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