Seth Donaldson, Project Management Assistant/Safety Officer at IA Stage.

This week, we have a guest blogger who’s going to talk about feeling safe on the job. I’d like to introduce Seth Donaldson, Assistant to Project Management, Safety Officer, and intrepid IT Guy. Here’s a little bit about him, for those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him yet:

I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, and I have done nothing but explore what the world has to offer. I have a curiosity for anything and everything and that intrigue is never satiated until I find out how something ticks. I have explored the realm of theatre at both Florida State College at Jacksonville and The University of Central Florida, where I obtained a BFA in Theatre Design and Technology. Currently, I am an Assistant to Project Management and the Safety Officer at IA Stage, where I have found that there is never a dull days’ work!

With his Safety Officer hat on, I’ll let Seth take it from here.

“At IA Stage, safety is not only a practice, it’s a culture. Anywhere we can, we make sure that safety is always at the foremost of every project, job, or task.

Every morning, before work starts, our shop holds a safety meeting that encourages both unity and safe working practices among the staff. They review common topics/hazards and how to mitigate them. There is open conversation during this time so that any employee may voice a concern, share an idea or concept related to the topic of safety, or even commend and encourage safe workplace habits witnessed by others. A few of the topics covered over the past several weeks have been hydration, heat exhaustion, and overexertion; fire safety; trip hazards; overhead crane safety; and hand injuries. Every one of these topics plays into feeling safe on the job.

When our employees are out in the field, supervisors are required to perform a complete job hazard analysis before beginning work to document any hazards that may be present during that day’s work. This daily analysis is used to encourage everyone who is working on the jobsite to analyze their situation and to foster awareness of how to keep themselves and others out of harm’s way.

With all of that being said, we never want an employee to feel unsafe or forced to perform tasks that they are uncomfortable performing. Our standpoint is that if an individual feels uncomfortable performing a task, but is forced into the situation, we have just escalated the potential for hazardous behavior to occur. In a case like that, not only is the unsure individual at risk; all teammates involved are at risk because the unsure person is more likely to work in an unsafe manner because they’re distracted and under stress.

Here’s an example of what that might look like. IA Stage is an overhead rigging company, and the people who work in the field must be able to work comfortably at height. (“Working at height” means that the required work is performed in a place or circumstance where a fall could cause personal injury.) What happens when you have a person on your crew who expresses that they’re afraid of heights? You can’t just wish them good luck and send them up in a scissor lift! You have to ask yourself, “What do we need to do help this person get the job done safely and correctly?” We’ve approached this very issue by utilizing group trainings in the shop with a high reach. Two people go up in the basket – a veteran who is comfortable working at height and operating the lift, along with a second person who is not so comfortable and needs training to get them familiar with how the machine moves, etc. The key concept here is “training”. Working in teams, we’ve been able to help folks move from a fear of heights to a healthy respect of heights by getting them familiar with the PPE that’s used to keep them safe and giving them access to someone who can knowledgeably answer questions and assuage any fears that can and do come up during training. When someone feels safe on the job, they’re more relaxed and focused on the task at  hand.  Confidence in their abilities then empowers them to work comfortably and safely at height.

Employees here are never ridiculed, looked down on, or treated any differently because they feel that an activity is too dangerous for them to carry out. If anything, this opens up a conversation about how we can improve processes or find an alternate way that may lead to safer workplace habits from then on out. It all boils down to open lines of communication, which is something that we value and encourage here at IA Stage, especially when it comes to feeling safe at work whether you’re in the field, the shop, or in the office.”