Dee Jepsen 2017-10-25 01:48:15
Is Safety a Means to an End, or the End of a Means? Most of us learned safety very early in life with lessons like “Look both ways before crossing the road” or “Never touch a hot stove.” Fire safety likely started when a caveman first struck a flint. For some activities, safety is a recommendation; for others, it is essential to life. Safety can be in the interest of a single person or for an entire community’s well-being. When safety affects social norms, it’s often presented as public policy. While we all have a basic understanding of safety, we also have great variability in how well we practice it. We make split-second judgments about heeding warning signs or listening to advice. Many times, we evaluate the credibility of the source before taking action. If the safety message comes from a respected authority, it’s more likely to be heeded. The opposite is also true: if the source has limited credibility, a history of false claims, or cumbersome application, then it’s often disregarded. Safety and health practices are entwined in our personal and professional lives. Some activities become intuitive, while others continue to be learned and tweaked as we go along. Following safe practices is not always a straight path. It’s not a process of simply measuring our actions; it also involves calculating and evaluating our intentions to act, as well as the possible outcomes of our actions. Creating a culture of safety is a current practice in many industries. A culture of safety typically involves either of two approaches. The first approach takes the viewpoint: Safety as an end of a means. In other words, safety is a goal we strive to achieve in our workplace. When an industry prominently posts the number of days worked with no lost-time injuries, there may be an incentive for workers to reach the end of the next week, month, or year with no injuries. A similar process occurs when an individual sets a personal goal to work safely for an entire career, and thereby enjoy a healthy retirement. The second approach considers: Safety as a means to an end. With this viewpoint, safety is simply the best way to achieve a larger goal. It is a lifestyle, or a habit, that’s practiced every day. Regardless of the approach, safety, as a professional discipline, requires an understanding of science and engineering as much as it depends on the physical and psychological factors of the people involved and their interactions with the environment. Because of these intricate connections, safety is a complex discipline that involves multiple influences. In this regard, ASABE has become a respected authority in the discipline of agricultural safety and health. In this special issue of Resource, a variety of guest authors share their perspectives on how agriculture has evolved into a safer industry. While the topics are diverse, a cohesive theme connects them. As guest editor, I was challenged to identify topics that show the breadth and depth of ASABE’s influence on industry standards, equipment design, and human interactions with the work environment. It is my hope that this collection will encourage even more participation in ASABE’s contributions to agricultural safety and health. As an active member of ASABE, I’ve had the privilege to work with other members involved in this discipline. In particular, ASABE’s Ergonomics, Safety, and Health (ESH) technical community provides a broad perspective on the engineering aspects of ergonomics, safety, and health for users of equipment, systems, and facilities within the industries served by the Society. I encourage you to get involved in the subcommittees for policy, standards development, technology exchange, publications, and awards. Student participation in ASABE is also important. Student involvement with safety typically occurs through Capstone design projects and ASABE-sponsored competitions. Student, faculty, and industry teams, working together, have developed many useful safety innovations, and they have shared their work at ASABE conferences and through publication in ASABE’s Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health, a peer-reviewed outlet for research and applied applications of safety and health in agriculture. I recognize that not everyone will choose safety and health as the focus of their career. However, given the breadth and depth of this discipline, there are continuous employment opportunities for engineers, educators, and public policy experts. Most important, safety and health should be concerns for everyone who works in agriculture. Sharing these concerns and increasing the awareness of our discipline is the “means to an end” of this special issue.
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