Safety Lessons: From Social Media and Complacency

Safety Lessons: From Social Media and Complacency

Guest writer Bill Pyles joins us this week with a blog that doubles as an OSHA Consultation in “Safety Lessons: From Social Media and Complacency.”

In my opinion, there are two serious threats to the safety of workers regardless of the industry you’re in. They are social media and complacency. Many people, me included, will refer to social media when working on something I’m not familiar with. However, the issue with social media is it’s not regulated, or reviewed by professionals and is not always compliant with basic safety standards.


For example, I was online reading one of my favorite car guy sites. The article was about jack stands and the correct way of blocking up a car before anything is done underneath the car. The article did stress that your jack stands are no place to try and save on expenses. But in the comments section, there was a raging debate regarding the use of cinder blocks to block up a car (or truck). One person rationalized that his house was built with cinderblocks, and it held up just fine. I was stunned to hear many others agree that cinder blocks work great for blocking up cars. The truth is that they are not designed to or rated to be used as blocking stands. Lay a cinder block on its side and you can break it with a small hammer. A cinder block will fall under a car or truck without warning and with deadly consequences.


Another example was when I was watching one of my car guy’s TV shows. I really enjoy the car show where they drag a rusted heap out of the forest and 60 minutes later it looks better than new! But they are still fun to watch. Recently a car was pulled out of a garage and the rescuers were trying to get it started. The car would crank over, but not start. Then one of the rescuers had a bottle of gas and proceeded to pour gas into the carburetor while his buddy cranked the starter. I was shocked again to see this because if the car backfired, (and they always do when an unregulated amount of gas is put into a cranking engine) it could cause significant injury to the guy pouring in the gas. All I could think of was how many others were watching this show and the next time an old car would not start, they’d grab a bottle of gas! Recently, I became another victim of both items mentioned above and it got me an ambulance ride and an overnight stay at the Loyola Burn Center just outside of Chicago, but more on this later.


First, I want to share with you a wonderful way to help your business avoid the hazards of social media safety and complacency.  I believe the following comments are attributed to President Ronald Regan. “The most terrifying words are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Many of you reading this may feel the same way and, in some areas, I’d have to agree. But what does this have to do with safety?


The thought of inviting an OSHA representative may send chills down the backs of some business owners and their managers. However, this government agency works hard to protect workers and their families. OSHA has an outstanding program called On-Site Consultation. It’s primarily for smaller businesses that do not have the on-staff resources for safety programs and compliance. 


OSHA’s on-site consulting program is at no cost to the business. It offers small businesses confidential occupational safety and health services. Works with employers to help find and eliminate workplace hazards, gives advice regarding complying with OSHA standards, and most importantly, helps establish and improve safety and health programs and train employees. Safety does not stop at the shop door. Your warehouse, break room, customer and vendor areas, and yard area are all areas to be reviewed.


During my career, I worked for a small company that was expanding rapidly. The expansion often included purchasing other dealerships that would expand the dealer’s territory and inherit many past practices of the purchased dealer that were unsafe work environments. The company was operating in the hands of many different supervisors and managers who had conflicting ideas regarding safety. Sometimes safety took a back seat to production. And too many times this mindset has caused a significant injury to an employee. The company took OSHA’s offer of its free consultation program. The results were almost immediate. The program follows OSHA’s guidelines for record-keeping, including three hundred reports, accident reporting, and my personal favorite, on-site inspections. It was an extremely enlightening experience. During all aspects of the consultation, the company must agree to address all out-of-compliance issues in a timely manner. If your company qualifies for this consultation program, I highly recommend looking into it or emailing me if you have questions or concerns. I’d be happy to share my experiences. For more information go to


As one of the managers responsible for safety, I would always do a brief walk-around inspection of our shops and yards. Occasionally I would take several techs, parts, and office employees on these walkarounds. It’s important for everyone to know and understand why the bench grinder is unsafe to use (a number one violation in most shops). Why? Too often no one takes responsibility for a shop tool. Everyone uses it so it’s “assumed” the next person will correctly adjust the grinding wheel to the tool rest. And are you doing the “ring” test when replacing the grinding wheel?? 


If it’s a pedestal grinder, can I easily push the grinder over, is it secure? All owners, managers, supervisors, and employees must understand the reason there is a safety violation to become real believers in safety compliance.


Are your full oxygen, nitrogen, and acetylene bottles secured, capped, and clearly marked? When you are out in your shop or warehouse, see how your oxygen and acetylene bottles are secured, then Google “oxygen bottle missile.” This YouTube video should make you a believer in compressed gas bottle safety!


I’ve been personally involved in accidental death investigations on the job site and serious injuries in the shop or yard. It’s very emotional when too often the accident could have been avoided. Too many accidents are the result of lack of experience (or too much experience, more on this later), lack of the proper tools, poor conditions; too hot, too cold, too cluttered, etc. 

Many years ago, a study was done to review why pilot error was a leading cause of airplane disasters. Briefly, the findings were that new pilots tended to make errors due to a lack of experience or training. As time on the job increased, errors due to lack of experience and/or training decreased. But oddly enough as the pilots became more experienced and highly trained, the errors began to reappear. The study found that as we become more experienced, we sometimes begin to take shortcuts and pay less attention to policy and procedure. They became complacent, a recipe for disaster. 


Ensure your team is trained regarding hazard identification issues. A hazard is any behavior or condition which increases the likelihood of an incident. An incident is an undesired event that could, or does, result in injury, illness, or property damage. Examples include poor lighting in the shop, warehouse, or even the office area. Trips and falls are still frequently happening due to hazardous conditions. Good stewards of safety eliminate hazardous conditions before an incident occurs.


Now, to address how I succumbed to complacency resulting in serious burns to my hand. I was collaborating with a friend trying to get an old car started. My friend was younger, and I did mention more than once that pouring gas into a carburetor while cranking the engine was dangerous. While the engine was cranking, it was hitting a couple of cylinders. So, I took a small bottle of gas and poured the gas directly into the carb. The last thing I remember was a huge fireball erupting under the hood with me in the middle of it. My hand was on fire as well as my tee shirt and the pants I was wearing. I quickly dove into a stack of tee shirts, rolling around and trying to get the fire out. Complacency got to me that day, and it could have been a lot worse. The car had burnt damage and the drywall in front of the car was burnt from my throwing the exploding gas bottle. And you can only imagine how I felt when someone on TV with thousands of viewers saw a bottle of gas being poured into a cranking engine! Fortunately, I’ve healed with no lasting issues other than a grim reminder of what being complacent can result in.

Remember social media has its place but safety is up to you! 

Listen to your instincts, I wish I did and would have avoided a trip to the hospital!

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