Compliant vs. Committed: What’s the Difference?

April 22, 2015
by Nathan Carlisle, Safety Supervisor

Have you heard the quote “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching?” Too often, we are willing to take shortcuts to shave off a few minutes of a task. Many times, we are only compliant with rules and procedures when a supervisor is present.

Daily tasks that are small and tedious are often when workers fall short of performing proper safety procedures. Having a commitment to safety requires us to not only being compliant with regulations on the clock but to also keep safety top of mind when we go home after a day of work. It needs to be a lifestyle.

As a safety supervisor, I oversee WTS employeeled safety meetings in various locations across the U.S. Employee-led safety meetings are when crew members conduct a presentation about a topic to their peers. During these routine safety meetings, I always ask crew members to define “compliant” and “committed.” I also ask them to raise their hands if they are committed to being safe. Typically, everyone in the class raises their hands.

In effort to really show the difference between compliant and committed, I start with a series of questions. I first ask, “By a show of hands, who is going to mow their lawn this weekend?” Most hands go up. I then ask, “Who will wear eye protection while mowing their lawn?” Fewer hands shoot up. Next question: “Who will wear eye AND ear protection as you mow?” Very few hands rise, signifying that almost no one plans to wear ear protection while they mow their lawn.

From there, I explain that being committed to safety carries beyond the work day. At home, safety practices should be followed just as much as at work. We wear eye and ear protection when working on the job site – why not at home? The next step after being compliant with safety practices is to be committed to safety as well.

Most workers have been persuaded that eye protection is an immediate safety benefit. Persuasion of using ear protection, however, is a little harder because most consequences aren’t noticed until years later when people start experiencing hearing loss.

Unfortunately, it might take a catastrophic event to occur in someone’s life to alter their mindset. Taking precaution is the key to prevention. When I first began working as a tree trimmer, I witnessed a co-worker get hit in the head with a hanger that we had been working around for several hours that day. I directly saw the result – that my 23-year-old friend was badly injured, paralyzed and in a coma for six months. Eighteen years later, he remains paralyzed. From the moment of the accident, I can assure you that everyone who witnessed the accident was convinced that safety precautions are imperative.

I believe that we don’t go to work with the intention of hurting ourselves or others, and you really have to work hard to get injured with every safety measure we have in place (job briefings, Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper, and our safety challenges). And still, we take short cuts. We might breeze through a job briefing and sign the forms without thinking about being committed to safety; instead we’re more concerned about being compliant. A commitment to safety and to all our procedures is key to preventing injuries.

At what point do you rise from not only being compliant but also becoming committed? I hope it doesn’t take an injury to convince you to take the next steps toward your commitment to safety. Act now and stay focused every day, you will be on your way to not only being compliant but committed to safety for yourself, your family at WTS and your family at home.