When you remove worry and uncertainty from your work site, people are more likely to make decisions that are in alignment with their own health and safety.
This week is the annual birthday celebrations of both Canada and the USA: Canada on July 1 and the USA on July 4. Both days are celebrated as national holidays in their respective countries - however Canada has a much lower concentration of backyard fireworks displays (probably because "the rocket's red glare" isn't in the Canadian anthem).
As a resident Canadian, I realize that there are a few stereotypes about us. Canadians are jokingly perceived to be poutine-eating, maple-syrup-swilling, igloo-dwelling, bacon-frying, moose-riding, polar-bear-petting, hockey-playing, beer-drinking polite people. Jokingly - although I don’t see anything on that list that doesn’t seem like fun - except the polar bear petting thing - yeah, wouldn’t do that one - or riding a moose. In reality, there are a few things that Canada brings to the table that we could sure use a lot more of in safety.
Here are 3 Canadian stereotypes that can be transferred to help the world in safety:
1In addition to being polite, Canadians are courteous. There is no doubt that we say “sorry” a lot. Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend Canadians who say sorry. And you can’t make blanket statements about an entire population because there are always a few exceptions to the rule, but Canadians treat others as they themselves wish to be treated. The mantra that “you get what you give" in safety has never been proven more than in Canada. If you want to have a safe day on the job site, you make sure someone else has a safe day. Be courteous. Be respectful of others. Look after your co-workers and there is an expectation that they will look after you. When you have someone’s back, they have yours. But it has to start somewhere. So extend politeness and courtesy to others and others will do the same for you. It should not be difficult to be polite. Being polite means that you are aware of your surroundings and that you are purposely extending courtesy. When it’s conscious, it’s on-purpose.
2You don’t have to lock your doors in Canada. Michael Moore said that in Bowling For Columbine. Even my mother is guilty of this one. However, like every country in the world, there are some areas where this stereotype simply doesn’t apply. A bad neighborhood is a bad neighborhood regardless of the country - Canada included. However, like many other countries, there are some geographic areas in Canada where locking your doors isn’t really necessary because you are so rural or isolated that you can either hear or see someone coming for miles or in a tight-knit neighborhood, neighbors actually care about the people they live near and will watch over their property. It’s an informal neighborhood-watch. There is a certain sense of security knowing that your neighbors are looking out for you and will protect your house while you are away in the same way that you would do the same for them. (See #1 above for further explanation on this point.) The point here is to get your workplace team to the point where they absolutely trust each other to look out for the welfare of the rest. If you can’t trust your co-worker, you won’t ever feel safe. If you don’t feel safe, you won’t act safe.
3Canadians look after the health and welfare of their fellow citizens. Yes, it is true that Canada has free healthcare for everyone. It’s not a perfect system but it is based on the principle of looking after one another, regardless of stature, status or income. If you are Canadian, you will be looked after with free healthcare (technically, it’s not fully free as it comes out of taxes). If you get sick, you will always have a hospital bed if you need it (sometimes you may have to wait a bit), a doctor will always see you and you will be able to get the procedures you need as part of the basic national healthcare plan. There is a sense of peace in knowing that should a loved one befall some terrible disease, that they would be looked after. It is one of the things that Canadians are most proud of - a healthcare system not based on income. When you remove worry and uncertainty from your work site, people are more likely to make decisions that are in alignment with their own health and safety.
There are a host of other stereotypes that could be discussed, but you only have to touch your tongue to a frozen steel post once to know you don’t do that again. Some lessons you learn quicker than others. But looking after each other on the job seems to be one that takes many reminders. Happy birthday Canada and the USA. Have a safe week.
By the way, you should be planning your January 2015 safety kick-off meetings now. If you're planning to bring in outside resources/speakers, you had better book them now.