There is a cliché that states, “A pessimist is just an optimist … with experience.” While worthy of a small chuckle, the phrase does make a point that our beliefs and attitudes can be shaped by events that happen to us or others. With this in mind, I would like to spend this week’s column discussing safety. In a way, being safety conscious is being a bit pessimistic. Rather than just assuming whatever it is you are about to do will “be OK,” being safety aware means you take a step back and ask the question, “What could go wrong?” While it sounds simple enough, based on the accident reports I read each week, it is a question that sometimes goes unasked.
Now I bet you are thinking that this is going to turn into another lecture on safety like a thousand others you have heard before. Well hopefully, that is not the case. But even if true, perhaps this one time the message will sink in for someone differently than before.
Becoming safety conscious, much like any other skill, can come with simple practice. Start with purposefully asking yourself (use your inner voice to minimize strange looks), “what could go wrong?” before you begin your next task, project or adventure. Once you make a habit of asking yourself this one question, the world will begin to look very different in terms of the risks you face.
Yes, it’s possible you will be perceived as a bit of an Eeyore by your friends if you say no thanks to something everyone else is doing, but if something in the back of your mind is telling you “watch out” you should seriously consider listening. We all make mistakes, but the ones that typically haunt us are the ones which after something bad happens we say, “I KNEW that was a bad idea, why didn’t I listen to myself?”
Another caveat, even if you get good at asking yourself, “what could go wrong here?” when you add in alcohol to the mix, your chances of objectively assessing the situation go down even further. In these circumstances, default to taking a pass on the “fun” that something in the back of your mind has you thinking “Maybe this is not such a great idea.”
Finally, even if you do all the right thinking, sometimes bad things can still happen. Make sure you have the best safety net in place in case things don’t go according to plan. Ways of maximizing your safety include wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, working or playing with another responsible adult and being doubly careful and conservative if you have been drinking alcohol.
So, please have fun this summer. Just have fun with a little bit more of an eye towards the risks involved in any activity, but especially those that involve high energy and the potential for injury. I would love to report on Labor Day 2012 that the personnel aboard Naval Support Activity Bethesda had no significant accidents for the summer. The optimist in me says we can make that a reality.
All Ahead Full
Capt. Frederick (Fritz) Kass
Naval Support Activity Bethesda