At Willmar Electric, we take the health of our coworkers seriously. When we focus on safety, it isn’t to save money. It is because the people we work beside are important, and we don’t want them to get hurt.

A strong safety program is rooted in injury prevention. Injury prevention starts with making sure people aren’t getting hurt. Last week we had a great example of looking out for the people around you.

A coworker’s eyes started to bother him on one of our projects last week. He took steps to fix the situation, such as flushing his eyes and moving to a different part of the project where no dust was being produced from cutting.  But still, his eyes continued to bother him, so our safety director took him to the doctor. (It is important to note that the coworker wore eye protection.)

The following day the safety director told us the unfortunate news that we may have had a recordable injury.

Then a few hours later, we learned the coworker’s issue was simply Pink Eye. Unfortunate for him but a relief to the rest of us. Why? Because once we found out about the injury, the rest of us wanted to figure out how to mitigate the risk and make sure others didn’t get hurt in the future. We wanted to get rid of the unsafe condition.

You are likely thinking the real issue in this situation is that we overreacted. We would disagree. In hindsight, that is what it would appear like, but I see it as a situation where a coworker “pulls the cord on the assembly line” to ensure everything stops until we have the situation under control.

In the world of Lean Manufacturing, they use the Japanese word andon. It refers to an alert system that notifies operators that a product issue has been detected. The main feature of Andon is a cord positioned above the production line (it can also be a button).

We often tell coworkers they can stop production whenever they see a safety or quality issue. People seldom “pull the cord,” but last week, somebody did.  I’m glad he did, and I’m glad our coworker wasn’t seriously hurt.

My challenge to you this week is to determine what action you will take to prevent an injury from happening.