Soaking up Safety

  • Published
  • By Vicki Peters, Contributing Writer
How much do you think about work once you "make eight and hit the gate?" Most of us leave it behind and turn our thoughts elsewhere, perhaps to that list of chores we've promised to do or maybe to the vacation we've anticipated for months. With summer's warmer days and increased daylight, we push ourselves to do more and more and put ourselves at risk for injury.

Whether it's do-it-yourself projects; exercise, sports and recreation; or vacation and leisure activities, one thing we shouldn't leave behind when we leave work is safety. At work, we're part of a safety culture that spans many areas. There are policies, procedures, standards and instructions to guide us, safety equipment to protect us, and supervisors and a safety team to help us find answers.

Off the job, we're on our own. We can ignore hearing protection while mowing the yard, skip the gloves while cleaning the oven, leave our safety glasses off when we're replacing a hinge, nix the helmet while biking, and stand on the top rung of a ladder to paint the gutters. We probably won't hear a word out of anyone. But it would be careless to drop safety when we hit the gate. After all, National Safety Council statistics reveal that for each work-related accidental death, more than 11 workers are killed off the job. Nearly three times as many workers suffer nonfatal injuries off the job as on the job.

Part of our Beyond Zero Culture is getting people to embrace the importance of safe behaviors, both on and off the job. This summer the focus is on "Soaking up Safety," encouraging us to "soak up" safety like we soak up sun on a warm summer day and to practice safety 24/7.

Keep your cool no matter how you spend your time soaking up summer. Protect yourself outdoors with sunscreen, a hat and glasses that block UV rays. Balance outdoor activities with periods of rest, water and shade. Keep in mind that heat stress is cumulative, and the high humidity that often accompanies Middle Tennessee high temperatures can magnify its effects. Try to schedule strenuous activities for the coolest time of the day. Learn which cloud formations accompany severe weather; be ready to take shelter before a storm hits.

Before you begin summer activity, review the risks, even if it's something you've done before.

DIY projects

If you lack experience for the task at hand, check your local hardware or lawn and garden store for advice or maybe even a free class. Once you're confident you can do the work, check your tools and equipment before using them. Chose the right tool for the job and assemble needed materials before you start the work. Don't forget properly fitted personal protective equipment (PPE). If you don't have the needed skills, tools and PPE for the job, buy, borrow, or rent them before you start, or hand off the project to a professional.

Exercise, sports and recreation

Take a cue from work and warm up with stretches before exercising or taking part in sports. Choose the right gear and protective equipment from head to toe. Drink plenty of water. Know your limits and avoid over exertion.

Area lakes and waterways offer opportunities for boating, fishing, skiing and other recreation and sports activities. Don't forget the life jacket. If you're new to boating, kayaking, sailing or canoeing, consider a boating safety course. Be aware that a variety of water sports and activities may take place simultaneously and close together. Watch out for others; and remember that alcohol, heat and water don't mix.


The great escape is where leisure rules and worry is left behind. At least that's what we hope. Before hitting the open road, taking to the friendly skies, or escaping by other means, take time to plan, plan, plan. In addition to that carefully chosen wardrobe, take time to pack insurance cards, any needed medications, a flashlight and small first aid kit, a cell phone charger, a map if you're driving, and a list of emergency contacts. Be sure your contacts have your itinerary, notify them of any change and check in with them when you return. Any time you are in unfamiliar or isolated territory, you are at risk. To help ensure your physical safety and that of your companions, stay alert to your surroundings. If you feel unsafe, move on as quickly as possible.

Don't leave your on-the-job safety culture at work. "Soaking up safety" at work then sharing it with your family is one way to ensure a safe, fun summer.