According to Merriam-Webster dictionary safety is "the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss"
About me and the history of safety
Safety literacies were officially established in United States by the United States Department of Labor in 1970. The literacy took form in what we all know today as the Occupational Safety and Hazmat Administration (OSHA). OSHA created the rules and regulations, known as the literacies of construction and general industry, in order to ensure the safety and well being of men and women working in any sort of conditions, and enforcing standards by providing training. I was personally subject to follow these rules and regulations for four years when I served in the United States Marine Corps as a heavy equipment operator; I earned my OSHA certification in general industry and construction. The training I received helped me understand how it affects my community, why my community helps me sustain and use my literacies in construction/general industry, and how I can apply it in everyday situations at, in, and out of school.
Things that safety literacy helps you develop
- Attention to detail.
- Time Management.
- Accountability for your own actions.
- Understanding the rules of the road.
- Being able to comprehend universal hand and arm signals (sign language specifically designed for construction).
- Being able to think at a moments notice (critical thinking).
- Reading and comprehending construction and hazmat signs at work and school.
- Knowing how to drive and operate heavy equipment or similar machines at work.
- Maintaining communication with all worker regardless of language barriers (hand and arm signals).
- Familiarizing you to OSHA, in order to keep up with the constant change, in a growing construction industry.
What safety literacy means to me
Taking the safety literacies that I have acquired from OSHA and construction, I can successfully and diligently apply them to everyday situations. A hypothetical example would be if I am commuting at work, school, or just in town. I can be sure of myself to, not just avoid an accident, but I can help prevent an accident from just observing and reporting any safety discrepancies I see. I can also encourage people to report potentially hazardous materials to the local authorities or management in charge of that particular building. It may seem like someone reporting a simple mistake to the manager or authorities might come off as a tattle tale, but in fact I am preventing an accident that could happen in the future. I personally know a fellow marine, that I have worked with in the past, was ground guiding a front end loader tractor through a construction site. That marine was not paying attention to the tractor and disregarded all safety literacies emplaced in to prevent from an accident. He stood too close to the bucket of the front end loader when he told the heavy equipment operator of the tractor to unload the dirt onto the work area; he also told the heavy equipment operator to boom down. The bucket of the tractor then crushed his hand in between the pile of dirt and the very bucket itself. That Marine learned first hand the urgency and importance of knowing and applying safety literacy everyday.
Comparing construction safety literacy to every day situations
I personally attended a formal school for heavy equipment in Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri from January 10 to June 10 of 2013. The school I attended was provided by the United States government in order for me to acquire my legal certification for heavy equipment. Being literate in safety for construction and general industry is very important to me because accidents in the workplace happen, but, with experience and knowledge of how to apply the literacies of safety, accidents can be prevented. We can compare an everyday car to a heavy equipment tractors, in the sense that it takes literacy in safety to know how to drive both vehicles.
- Drivers both need approximately eight hours of sleep before getting behind the wheel of either vehicles.
- Heavy equipment operators and normal drivers both let their vehicles warm up before driving them on the road.
- Both must attend safety classes and earn a certification in order to drive their vehicles. (DMV, CDL and OSHA Certifications)
- By knowing the safety literacies of both vehicles it lessens accidents overall.
- By knowing safety literacies in both vehicles it can help the drivers maintain and trouble shoot their vehicles, and remind them to inspect them regularly.
Why you should consider being literate in safety
Construction companies will absolutely prefer literate workers during the hiring process for a construction or a heavy equipment related jobs. Workers with these specific literacies would also be held to a higher standard because of the knowledge and experience in safety. Also, having physical evidence in the form of legal documentation says a lot about an employee that is certified in safety for construction and general industry. That employee has a higher chance of retaining their job and a lesser chance of causing accidents because of the training provided by attending classes for safety literacies (OSHA).
Sustaining the safety literacies
Being Held to a higher standard
A real life example of lack of safety literacy was when a semi-truck, carrying an excavator heading south on the 395 highway in Pasco, WA, hit the Court Street overpass back in June 15, 2011. The accident caused damages to several other vehicles by the oncoming debris from the accident. Officer Dave Bond, a Washington State Trooper, cited the truck driver for carrying a load over the legal limit. This is just a local example from a newspaper article in the Tri-Cities Herald website.
As a heavy equipment operator, I personally feel passionate about maintaining my safety literacies in construction and general industry up to date, every time I need to enter a new construction project. The story that I shared was an example of what happens when construction workers/heavy equipment operators are willfully negligent and do not apply basic safety literacies on the job. My community can help the construction industry sustain these safety literacies by holding these negligent workers accountable for their actions. Additional training of safety literacy can be provided from the very source that created safety literacies (OSHA). This training can be beneficial for heavy equipment operators that have had accidents, in the form of court mandated safety classes and temporarily suspend the driver's work licenses, until the state court says the driver/operator is eligible to drive or operate his or hers vehicle safely again.
Safety in our community
A normal student or employee at any particular job, not necessarily a construction worker or a marine, can be literate in safety because safety literacies can be enforced by anyone. If you see someone being unsafe at work or school, you can tactfully tell that person that they are being unsafe and suggest a more logical or efficient solution. For example, imagine seeing someone on campus or at work texting while driving. Next time you see that person you could tell them to not text and drive because it is illegal and clearly unsafe. If that person continues to be unsafe behind the wheel of their car, you can report them to the campus or local authorities. Another example would be if a person at work or school is being unsafe by standing on swivel chair, in order to save time when a step ladder is easily accessible. You can take action and correct that it by telling that student or employee to not stand on the chair and use the step ladder instead.
how is Safety Literacies relevant to SCHool?
Since I enrolled into Columbia Basin College in September of 2016, and I recently leaving the heavy equipment/construction industry. I have learned to apply my knowledge of safety literacies that I have acquired from working as a heavy equipment operator into academic situations. In order for me to keep up with a slightly younger generation of students in my school, I use attention to detail to carefully revise and read all of my questions and answers during tests and homework assignments. Accountability for my own actions helps me look at the bigger picture when it comes to school. I really have to look at the opportunity costs of what happens when I choose to procrastinate or work on a school assignment. My decisions can affect my grade directly. Whether I do well or not in school, taking accountability for my own actions helps me develop responsibility and complete all of my school assignments in a timely manner. Time management is also very important to me because I also work part time while going school at CBC full time. Managing my time wisely helps me balance the amount of time I study for each class and keep priorities in order to maintain a passing grade in school.