Mindfulness is the cure for Accidents in the workplace!!!
How many times have you driven on autopilot? How many times have we been in our own thoughts, only to discover that we missed a turn, or forgot to stop on our way home and we are in our driveway already? We have tripped over boxes that we left out, we have reached into filing cabinets and gashed our hands on the doors and we have glanced at our phones and sent garbage cans we impacted with our vehicles flying (or was that just me?)
Corporations send out safety notices and change policy to ultimately keep employees MINDFULL of their actions, citing things like 3 points of contact, harnesses use, fatigue management strategies, cell phone usage at work and more. Policies are trumpeted from HR and safety departments however the underlying cause is mindfulness.
How do we stay mindful? How do we move from auto pilot to active engagement in our daily repetitive tasks? This is tough to address beyond a policy roll out. How can an organization encourage the internal thought process of another human? How do we measure thoughts of others for success? This is not established with a checklist or policy – this is established with drawing attention to the issue as awareness is the crux of the battle.
We begin WITHIN. Our own safety is our own responsibility. *please note* this is not addressing an employer asking you to preform something “unsafe” this is to address managing our own safety within a safe workplace.
On a Saturday February 3 2018, an oilfield team finished a big project. They packed up and were excited to be going home after months away. They were convoying together; in the aftermath of what was to come we were told how excited they were to be heading home. 2 hours into the drive I imagine fatigue set in, If not for one, for all. As they felt the weight of the project fall away the ability to rest set into their minds and bodies. There was anticipation for their homecoming, and planning as to what to do with all the time off and revenue this job provided. Messages between the team flowed between the convoy. I am sure messages and calls from expectant family started to flow in (I have called my husband when he has been on his way home, excited to see him).
On this late afternoon the sun was going down, Roads were seemingly OK with patches of ice and blowing snow. One team member in particular with a family at home and a baby on the way was among the convoy … I imagine for him, phone calls and exchanges that took place as he made his way home. Maybe there was a face-time call (more of you have done it than will admit) or maybe fatigue set in and was unmanageable, maybe he nodded off, or maybe he glanced at his phone or was shuffling the playlist to find something to keep him alert. Maybe he was annoyed at the change in speed limit and wanted to pass. In any case, in a moment … he crossed the center line. My Sister saw him coming and stood on her break, cranked the wheel to the ditch – 1.8 seconds before impact – the efforts were insufficient against the 1-ton truck that hit her. One moment of mindlessness, distraction or fatigue claimed the life of her 4-year-old daughter in the back seat on impact. This impact broke her from the hips down.
I struggle to share this photo, even now. The loss of life seems unreal and yet so vivid the reality touches every cell. It feels incredibly personal and private. The loss cannot be quantified in words … the only word I have found is … Shattered.
The effects of this “accident” have rippled through too many families to mention and shattered more than the bones in my sisters body. The ripples are felt years later and will be felt for years to come.
Our efforts to maintain safe conduct touch more than we will ever see.
Even though my sister has learned to walk again, she will never again walk without physical pain or impingement.
Bodies broken and hearts shattered for a moment of mindlessness….
SO what CAN we do! from paper cuts to loss of life …
- Begin with intention – Creating a mindful workplace begins with an intention to remain alert and aware. Intention at the beginning of each day, each task or project will keep our heads in the game. It keeps us aware of our surroundings. Beginning with an end in mind – If in an office setting it is often useful to set a time limit – for the next 10 minutes I am going to focus on XX. Set an alarm for 10- 20 minutes from now- Mute your phone and work offline – this often takes us out of a head space that the task is endless which leads to distraction before we begin. If you are OTR break your drive into manageable chunks – commit to focus for XX amount of time.
- Fatigue management – knowing yourself, knowing when to take a break, knowing when to take a walk around, open windows, engage in a podcast if you are OTR – know when to rest. One tip from my uncle was to pluck protruding nose hairs *you may think I’m kidding* apparently if you reach one far enough back it will provide an hour of alertness, some sneezing and eyes watering but sleeping through such things is impossible – Please let me know if this trick works for you
- Reviewing safety policies to keep them forefront in you mind- *boring I know, and I admit to the eye roll as the safety flashes populate my inbox…. BUT – House keeping, cold stress management, Lawnmower safety are usually circulars you can find in your company circulars or even online – this helps with setting an intention for the day – What am I doing, what do I have to be aware of – this small reminder coupled with the act of even googling it brings attention to the activity and being able to approach it in a mindful way. As you step down the stairs or up on that load the circular fresh in your mind may just be the reminder you needed to stay safe in that moment and prevent a fall that results in lives impacted. Even a small sprain can change your function in a day.
- Focus – on the task at hand – distractions with home-life need to be pulled over to deal with: or Step outside your office and deal with what you can. Avoid open apps or unnecessary dialogue boxes. Make a list of the issues fogging your mind – GET IT OUT OF YOUR BRAIN AND ON PAPER! Then address each issue with what CAN I do in this moment – what is the next BEST step. Then do that before returning to your duties
- Up to date on training – Be the Best! Do everything you can to learn it all and be an expert in your field. My mom was an amazing teacher and mentor with a side of crazy to keep things interesting. One of her lessons she passed to me was to be the best! If you are scrubbing toilets, be the BEST damn toilet scrubber ever! Whatever you do, do with all your might and all your ability and never stop learning mastery of your craft! This keeps you training, it keeps you mindful.
Mindfulness is a practice and a discipline. When we are disciplined to practice every day, we become better and better at developing that skill … and make no mistake, it is a skill to be worked on daily if not moment by moment. Trying to focus in our social media, immediate gratification boundless information at our fingertips leads to wormholing and time and attention lost – ultimately distractions that cause accidents!
It is my goal that every individual is safe and ultimately returns unscathed to their loved ones after work. Take the responsibility of your own safety personally – From paper cuts to lost lives we alone hold the answer for our safety!
If you would like mindfulness tips beyond tweezing nose hairs please never hesitate to reach out!