Maybe it is just human nature, or maybe it is a sign of the times, but the tendency for people to break rules seems to be increasing. We watch as others and ourselves consistently break the speed limit. We talk to friends who tell us that they took a few extra write-offs at tax time. Our neighbor puts up a garage without getting a building permit, while another dumps oil drained from the crank case of his car on the ground behind his house. Even worse than breaking the rules, though, is the fact that a lot of people accept the behavior as just a part of life.
In our daily lives, generally we overlook the fact that people break the rules. But when we go to work, for some reason, most of us think things should be different. The fact is, if people break the rules outside of work, most likely they will break them inside of work as well.
This is especially true when it comes to safety. With a lack of enforcement and a driving force behind it, safety just does not always happen consistently. Without a doubt, in the everyday rush to keep facilities running, safety and maintenance work often collide with each other.
One problem lies in the different ideas about expediency. This includes both staff and supervisors. For instance, often it seems easier to go get a chair out of a classroom than to get the proper ladder to change a fluorescent lamp in the hall. It is easier just to crawl in the manhole at the north end of campus to shut off the water to a broken sprinkler line than to go through the trouble of obtaining a permit, gathering the equipment and enlisting the two people required to enter that confined space. It seems easier to leave a breaker untagged and unlocked when you are the only one in the building, and you forgot to bring your tags and locks with you from the shop. All of these things and many more are easier, simpler and more expedient-that is, until an accident happens.
But one of the biggest parts of the problem in a maintenance/safety collision happens at the supervisory level. It occurs both at the physical plant, as well as within the administration. An administrator may want something done right away, and to do it as quickly as he or she wants it done requires that the physical-plant employee ignore safety protocol. A physical-plant manager or foreman may say he or she is committed to safety, but when push comes to shove and the pressure is on, the person may create a situation where workers cannot follow safety procedures as outlined by written policies. Unfortunately, workers are always compromising safety in order to satisfy expediency.