Another tragic case of not reading the manual?

Subject: Another tragic case of not reading the manual?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>, 'Robert Plamondon' <robert -at- plamondon -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 15 Aug 2003 12:03:34 -0400

My take on this: We can't produce manuals that will keep people fully safe.
That's the responsibility of the product designers. What we can do is
provide appropriate and comprehensive warnings for those few who read the
manuals, and we can lobby the designers with all our collective heart to fix
obvious problems. But we can't enforce those changes.

Robert Plamondon reports: <<I agree that management is responsible (but I
doubt safety drills represent a full solution).>>

Depending on the jurisdiction, they're legally responsible for providing a
safe work environment. That includes worker training, and a safety drill (an
actual real-world run-through) is probably the best way to provide that
training. Reading the manual is very different (and less effective) than the
hands-on experience that a drill provides. It's not the whole solution, but
it's an important part of it.

<<A lot of people don't think like management, and they take their work
environment for granted. This leads them to blame the victim for being too
dumb, too clumsy, or too unlucky for the job.>>

While I don't dispute this, it's important to note that many managers are
positively Victorian in their attitudes towards their workers. I spent
5-some years co-chairing the safety committee at a Canadian federal lab, and
though my managers generally took safety very seriously indeed, we heard
some real horror stories about other employeres during some of our training

<<management is responsible for selecting appropriate employees -- including
managers -- who are capable of doing their jobs properly.>>

Yet in my experience, managers are very reluctant to fire someone--even
someone who is a danger to their co-workers. This should be a no-brainer,
but you'd be surprised at what slips under the wire. In fact, I ended up
leaving the safety committee when it became apparent that they weren't going
to relieve someone of their driving privileges even though it was clear that
this person was driving government vehicles irresponsibly. (Crashed one, and
had been reported by colleagues several times.) The vehicle was necessary
for the person to do their job, so...

<<Accidents can always happen.>>

Even to people who know better and who are taking proper precautions. It's
the willful blindness to serious problems, and the unwillingness to force
workers to take responsibility for safe work practices that are at the heart
of many accidents. Is it really an "accident" if it's preventable?

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
(try ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca if you get no response)
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada

"Wisdom is one of the few things that look bigger the further away it
is."--Terry Pratchett

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