Safety Attitudes

Feb. 1, 2001

Safety Attitudes

Positive work habits can lead to a safer workplace

By Nicholas J. Onufer, RN

February 2001

Regardless of what we do for a living, safety in the workplace affects everyone. We hear about it, we talk about it, and hopefully, we practice what we preach. Although everyone agrees that safety is a good thing, it is a term that has a multiplex concept. It is everyone’s responsibility to be willing to invest in safety. Accidents can be prevented by recognizing dangers. Education and training are the ways we are able to recognize the dangers.

Hangar hazards
There are many hazards and dangers associated with the hangar environment. In fact, it is more dangerous than most industrial vocations. Some of the hazards include jet and aviation fuel. There are specific procedures for fueling an aircraft. When someone is careless with the procedures, accidents occur. Burns and explosion are the most dramatic results of an exposure to flammable fuels and chemicals, especially when mixed with high concentrations of oxygen, but there are other ways that chemicals, including aviation fuels, can cause injury. Inhalations through the lungs or absorption through the skin can cause long-term damage to our bodies. Breathing toxic fumes through the lungs is the fastest and most complete absorption route for any type of hazardous vapor or airborne contaminant. Some of these chemicals, including aviation fuel, can cause cancer from long-term exposures.
Paints, solvents, fuel additives, and battery fluids can become potential hazards if handled incorrectly. Eye injuries from splashed chemicals can cause loss of one of our greatest gifts, the gift of sight.

What’s your attitude?
Attitude is the key for safety. The work attitude that causes concern is the unwillingness to change. The "I have been here 20 years and that is the way we have always done it" posture prevents the opportunity to evaluate the workplace and institute positive change that can make a work environment safer. Attitude is not an easy trait to change or modify. It takes a carefully planned and organized change of policies or procedures. Everyone should be given the chance to be included and to participate in the decision making process when instituting change. Remember, the changes will affect everyone in the hangar. A positive attitude by management and the willingness to share responsibility of safety with all concerned is the best way to gain the confidence and cooperation of the entire work force.

Behavioral chemistry
Work behaviors also direct the safety practices of the hangar. Generally, the behavior of an individual is based on attitude mixed with the current state of mind or "mood" at that particular point of time. Some behaviors are good for the environment and contribute to the increase production of the entire workforce. A positive attitude coupled with a feeling of happiness can become infectious and bring everyone together to work as a team. On the other hand, a good attitude combined with working under the feeling of threat, doom, or sadness causes one to be distracted, offering the chance for a mistake to occur. Bad work attitudes mixed with good moods can cause excessive ’horseplay’ that can cause injury or even death. Good attitudes and good behaviors are a must for safety and any other mix of the two can cause disastrous results.

Leading the charge
Morale of the individual, as well as the workforce, is the final piece of the safety puzzle. We have to like what we do and where we work. The "I hate my job" syndrome is a real danger in the workplace. It is infectious and non-productive. It may only take one individual in the hangar with a poor morale to affect the entire hangar. Arguments and unsafe behaviors develop, bad attitudes are created, and everything begins to fall apart. The only way to prevent the loss of morale is genuine leadership. A good leader is one who is an open and fair-minded person and can bring out the best in anybody — regardless of personal feelings.
Safety is a real commitment and management must abide by the results of their own actions and decisions as well as accept responsibility for the actions of the employees. Training has to be encouraged and provided to the employees. Praising and rewarding the employee for safe and productive actions should be the norm — not the exception. Discipline has to be fair and consistent. The ideal manager should have high regard for the worker and treat everyone with respect.
We spend a great deal of our lives at the work site and expect to return home in one piece. When we get ourselves ready for work, we generally do not think of what might happen to us throughout the day. Initiating and adhering to safe practices provides further insurance that we will live to enjoy the fruits of our labor. AMT

Introducing Safety Matters
Safety is and has been an important and overriding theme in AMT since the publication’s inception, but has never been given its own showcase. With that in mind, this new column will appear in each issue and will supply editorial focused on safety for maintenance personnel as well as for the environment in which they work.
In the coming months, Safety Matters will tune into hearing protection, seek relief for heat stress, and uncover uses for personal protective clothing and equipment. We hope you find this new feature informative and enjoyable.
– The Editors