Paul Butler | Health and Safety

Paul Butler

The primary purpose of government is to protect life and property. To enable a government to do this, it must ensure its income is greater than its expenses. Likewise, by having laws, a government enables people to prosper economically and otherwise enjoy life with a degree of safety, but it is never able to guarantee personal prosperity or absolute protection from every conceivable danger.
I see so many parallels with the rules and regulations a government must set with those we see in the workplace. Just as government has laws at the federal, state, county and city level, a place of work often has to adhere to the same edicts of law.
In addition, an organization may have policies, processes and procedures in place it must follow. Depending on the size and nature of the organization, these may have been agreed upon and written at the headquarters, the district office or from the desk of the owner or individual leaders. Either way, they’re in place to protect life and property while ensuring the economic stability of the enterprise.
We are therefore a nation of law and order — may we never lose sight of the fact that at the heart of the matter is a desire to protect life and property, while enabling people to prosper and enjoy that life.
I wonder therefore what is so deep down within our DNA that causes us to want to rebel against authority? Yes, I know this Great Experiment called the United States was born out of rebellion, but why do so many of us think the rules don’t apply to us? It is true — we are an exceptional nation, but does that justify why many of us think we’re an exception to the rules?
Let’s look at how this all manifests itself within our places of work and our health and safety record. Are we becoming a safer nation at work or not? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the most common causes of workplace injury are lifting, poor lighting, violence, trips/falls, stress, fatigue, shortcuts, overconfidence, poor housekeeping, lack of preparation and mental distractions.
When we dig a little deeper into these trends, what we see is a significant degree of responsibility clearly at the door of the employer who chose not to follow guidelines. Even more disturbingly we see an alarming proportion of the statistics concluding, upon investigation, that the fault lay solely at the feet of the employee who chose to reject the required restrictions.
Why do I raise this rather grim information? Well, in 2020 we are all buckling under the burden of some rather onerous government restrictions on what we can and can’t do because of ever-increasing COVID-19 numbers. We know a vaccine is imminent and if we all do our part we can come through this victorious and minimize the number of deaths and non-fatal infections. Yet, for some reason a significant proportion are letting the Old Rebel within them rise up and show itself with physical dissensions against such “Draconian measures.”
Determined to believe they’re personally being persecuted, they want to throw off the face covering, shake hands with many and get as close as can be to others just like it was 2019. I get it. We all want things to go back to normal as soon as possible but in the meantime, by rejecting authorities above us, we risk burying others below us and seeing others fall seriously sick around us.
According to the 2019 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) report, 100% of workplace accidents that resulted in fatality or serious injury were actually preventable upon OSHA’s analysis of each case. It was the rejection of the governing authority and their related guidelines that was found to be the root cause of all 3,409 workplace fatalities and 2.8 million non-fatal workplace injuries last year.
I have many hopes for 2021 and one of them that I hope is not just a dream is that as Americans we would rewrite our internal scripts to self-declare that authority, (be it government or leadership at work) is not inherently evil and is in place for our good, in this more perfect union.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]

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