An unsafe act can be defined as a deviation from standard job procedures such as not using personal protective equipment, removing machine guards and using outdated tools.

This is the classic definition of an unsafe act. As we deep dig deep into this definition we must examine a basic reason why these unsafe acts occur. It may be as simple as an employee taking a shortcut to do the job quickly due to supervisor pressure, lack of job knowledge, lack of proper training or equipment or due to their own personal work habits.

Personal work habits maybe the biggest reason why employees take shortcuts. The simple truth is that we all take shortcuts in life that place our safety at risk. Taking a shortcut is becoming more commonplace as our lives get busier and as the concept of multi-tasking becomes a natural part of our lives both at home and in the workplace. When we perform simply tasks around the house do we always use the proper equipment and consider safety when performing these tasks?

When we clean out the gutters in the fall season do we use the correct ladder? Do we inspect the ladder prior to use to ensure that it is safe? Do we move the ladder throughout the process or do we try to reach as far as possible along the gutter to avoid having to get off the ladder and move it closer to the area that we need to reach? In these situations, we are putting our own personal safety at risk to get the job or activity done faster.

If these types of shortcuts are common in our everyday lives, they must also be occurring in the workplace. This can be especially troublesome if we have employees taking shortcuts during critical operations such as working from heights, working in confined spaces, conducting lockout operations and driving forklifts. Employee shortcuts within these types of activities can lead to a severe injury or even death. How can we tell if our employees are taking shortcuts when performing these and other tasks?

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