Hands on This, Mind on That

By: J.A. Rodriguez

​Article originally published here on May 11, 2017. 

Work is progressing as usual. There is a very busy day ahead with at least one hundred things to do before it ends. The time is 0600, then 1600. Time flies by and the work activity correspondingly increases to meet commitments. Hands are on the current task, but the mind is elsewhere, perhaps on the long list of things to get accomplished or perhaps on the family plans that evening. Suddenly, the unthinkable happens. There it is: an almost. A near miss. Your heart is racing. You think “what if?”  You contemplate about your family and say to yourself, “Wow! That was close! Need to be careful next time!”

Another day, another week, another month zips by. Same thing. Early mornings. Late evenings. Many things to do in a short period of time with your hands on task and your mind elsewhere. Suddenly the unthinkable happens, only this time, you suffer a serious injury. Your work comes to a halt and so does that of your team. Taking care of you is now the organizational priority, and making sure the best medical care is provided as quickly as possible is the new mission at hand. You are unaware of any of this as your stretcher carefully is loaded into the back of an ambulance and rushed off to the nearest hospital.

Family members are notified. They are on the way to the emergency room. You are now in intensive care being treated for a potentially life-altering injury. In the meantime, there is a great expanse of activity going on to stabilize the work area, determine what happened and what process changes are required to prevent recurrence. The good news is, but only after a painful while, you’ll make it with no permanent harm.

During the two long weeks in the hospital, you reflect on what happened and the personal price paid for not having mind on task in terms of your health, well-being, family and quality of life. You wish you could turn back time and do it again, except you can’t. That’s when you realize, the next time there may not be a next time. That somber thought brings serious reflection… No lapse in focus during the performance of a job is worth the unthinkable to you or your family.

According to OSHA, one worker never returns home from work to his or her family every two hours of every day due to a workplace fatality. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 2.9 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry in 2015. This means that, on average, approximately 7,945 workers are injured or fall ill every day of the year. Three hundred thirty one every hour and almost six every second. While this is a decline over the last several years, the number of injuries and illnesses to our workers are way too high. More can be done. More must be done by all of us.

Always focusing on the task at hand drives higher performance and saves lives. Effectively performing your work not only means being THERE, it also means being PRESENT. It means demonstrating leadership. Deliver performance at every opportunity by keeping your attention laser-guided on working safely and avoid having to reflect back on the real price tendered for injuries.

Protect yourself and others. Keep your hands on this thought and your mind on that task to make certain there’s never a different “almost” all over again.