Thoughts on workplace safety

I often straddle the divide between us (scientist; me) and the various professional persons concerned about workplace injuries (administration; sometimes me). The two sides have perfectly valid feelings of annoyance with the other. From the scientists: excessive administrative burden stymies productivity; and from the administration: employees get up to some seriously dumb things if you let them.

Examples of dumb things I’ve seen in multiple workplaces:

  • people standing on chairs/desks to reach things
  • people climbing shelves to avoid getting a ladder
  • people blocking/locking emergency exits and safety equipment

Examples of unproductive administration practices

  • ‘you need to read and understand this whole handbook but we won’t schedule any time for that’
  • ‘you need to account for every mg of this solid chemical, even the stuff that disappears as a gas’
  • ‘you already have a permit for three years but you also need to fill in this form (that needs four certified forms but they all get certified at different places) and then give us your passport for three weeks while you’re in a foreign country in order to get a permit for this year’

We still need the concerned people though because you can be certain that scientists will do something heinously Darwinian if they’ve no leash. And I’ve no interest in working in a building where the emergency exits might be blocked by someone’s broken chair and boxes of 40 year old documents…