It was 1977, and I was 18 years old, straight out of high school. I thought Bob Seger was talking about me when he sang:
“I was 18, didn’t have a care. Working for peanuts, not a dime to spare. But I was lean and solid everywhere. Like a rock. My hands were steady, my eyes were clear and bright. My walk had purpose. My steps were quick and light. And I held firmly to what I felt was right. Like a rock.”
Then came 24, then 25, then reality, then humility, then wisdom, then appreciation. The reality of people suffering and dying needlessly right before my young EMT eyes on the local rescue unit. The humility to see and respect my own human frailties and fallibilities. The wisdom to understand the importance of working and living safely. The appreciation for the unexpected and lasting gift of a safety culture from my employer.
I wasn’t always “the safety guy.” In fact, I’ve got a few scars to prove it. When I started with NPPD, I knew “go”, not “whoa”. I knew to take risks, not to reduce risks. I lived on the edge, and never dreamed of taking a safety pledge.
And then one sunny and care-free day it happened: A good friend of mine suffered life-changing injuries and nearly died from electrocution. And I got to answer some tough questions. Questions that I didn’t answer very well. Questions like: What was going on in the days prior to the event? Did you see or hear anything that didn’t seem right? Did you say anything about it? Why not?
A good friend of mine suffered life-changing injuries and nearly died from electrocution.
After that, I swore I would never again look the other way or take the easy way out when it comes to the safety of the people I work with and care about. That’s probably how I got the nickname “Overkill” (vs Overman). I’ll admit that I do sometimes overemphasize the need to work and live safely. I do that intentionally because the stakes are so high, and I never ever want to look back on an injury (or worse) and know that I could have done more to prevent it. Once is enough for me.
It’s really not that much fun or interesting going through the kinds of life-altering experiences that I’ve been through, so please learn from me and others like me who learned the hard way. Take the time to double-check. Ask questions. Stop if you’re unsure. Wear your seatbelt, use the right tools and wear your protective equipment. Eliminate hazards whenever possible. Concentrate on what you’re doing and where you’re going.
Please. Make it your choice to live safely, and share the gift of safety culture. Embrace it. Share it with coworkers and your family and friends. The payback is outstanding and lasting. Some might say it’s a prerequisite for enjoying your pension or 401k.