Operating a Dangerous Machine

Caution SignImagine if you will a machine that almost anyone can buy and operate. You read the training manual, practice it's use under the supervision of someone who is also a user and has some proficiency of it's operation. Finally, you take a test to see if you too have basic proficiency in it's operation. If you pass, the supervisor lets you use the machine with minimal oversight as you see fit.

Over time, the machine is upgraded with new functions and capabilities. The circumstances that you use it in also change gradually. More machines are present in the area where you work and others use them to do more work more quickly.

Some safety rules are developed for your protection, but they are not always fully communicated to you so that you learn them. In fact, you are allowed to make mistakes or deliberately misuse the machine with only minimal consequences. If you really mess up or make a large number of mistakes you may have to quit using the machine for a while. You don't lose your job or even have to upgrade your skills.

These machines kill one person a day and injure hundreds of others. No one gets too upset unless these people are friends or family, after all, the costs for this are spread over us all and we pay an amount for it each year regardless of whether we cause the problem or not.

If I were actually describing a machine in your workplace you might refuse to use it or go on strike until your employer made safety improvements. Why don't we get excited when the machine is our own motor vehicle?



Hold everyone to a higher standard

Quite a few people would be surprised at what they would find if they were required to pre-trip and keep a log of their own vehicles. As a commercial driver, I know the importance of keeping my vehicle running safely.

I find it strange that we commercial drivers must pre-trip a vehicle and it must be perfect before we take it out on the road to carry passengers, but when we're off the job we don't. Obviously, commercial drivers must be held to a higher standard, but why not also other road users? How about your friends and family who might be passengers in your vehicle?

People forget, just because they don't hold a commercial driver's licence, they seem to think that the same catastrophic failures can't befall them. Hydraulic brakes can fail just as air brakes can if they're not properly maintained. Just because you're not carrying 10 tonnes behind you doesn't mean you're not going to be seriously injured if the brakes fail.

I'm not saying I pre-trip my vehicle everytime I take it out for a test drive, but if tires seem a bit low or the wiper fluid is low, I'll correct it at the next gas station. If the oil is low, top it off! That's why gas stations sell oil!

Higher standards aren't just for commercial drivers.