The Risk of Prioritizing Productivity Over Safety

This is the second post in a four-part series exploring factors that could contribute to an arc flash incident, based on the experience of arc flash survivor and safety advocate, Brandon Schroeder.

In our first blog post, you read about how Brandon Schroeder’s years of experience led to risky behavior that contributed to an arc flash incident. We explored how the “it will never happen to me” attitude coupled with high-risk behavior is an alarming commonality among employees in the industry today. In this post, we’ll dive deeper into the factors leading up to Brandon’s arc flash incident and examine another common behavior that could put workers in a dangerous position.

When Brandon was asked to relocate a cord inside a panel – something he’d done countless times without incident – he was faced with several obstacles. But it was his “get it done” attitude that led him to perform the task despite these roadblocks:

  • He was 30 minutes from the end of his workday
  • He could not shut off the power because there was no main breaker on the panel
  • He did not have his arc flash suit in his vehicle
  • He was not wearing flame resistant (FR) clothing

Brandon decided not to call the utility company to shut off the power, therefore, he had to perform the work energized, and he decided to do it without proper PPE. It took Brandon minutes to consider these factors and still decide to do the job, but the physical and mental recovery would take much longer. Brandon suffered third-degree burns on his hands, arms, and face. He spent four weeks in the University of Iowa’s burn unit, plus four more in the hospital before being allowed to return home to recuperate. It was six months before he was able to return to work.

Similar to experience, an employee’s commitment to productivity is extremely valuable – but when it’s prioritized over safety, it can lead to problems that are larger than not finishing a job and are life-altering. According to a survey by the National Safety Council, 1 out of 3 American workers believe that productivity is valued over safety by their employers. What’s even more alarming is that the percentage is even higher for employees that work in high-risk industries, according to the same survey.1

The good news about the results of this survey is that employers can work on changing the mindset of their employees by creating a “Safety First” culture, empowering employees to make decisions with safety top of mind. The even better news is that once this culture is firmly established, employers will find that safety contributes to productivity. When workers are safe, there are fewer incidents, meaning, employees are able to report to work and do their jobs as expected.

Brandon is a walking reminder of how prioritizing productivity over safety can go wrong. Which is why he’s an advocate for shifting the mindset in the industry, saying, “If you have the wrong safety habits, you make it much easier to make the wrong decision, which can have effects that are impossible to undo.”

There are many ways of achieving a culture focused on safety – Tyndale has an FR Safety Library, an industry-leading blog, and many other resources that can be used to help employers and employees alike learn about and understand the importance of safety. Additionally, employers can make sure their employees don’t find themselves in a situation like Brandon’s, where they don’t have the proper PPE, by implementing an FR daily wear program. Stay tuned for the next blog post in this series which explains the importance of daily wear over task-based programs.

To learn more about Brandon Schroeder’s experience, visit his company websiteBelieve in Safety, and stay tuned for future posts on preventative steps you can take to avoid serious injuries on the job.

1National Safety Council, “One Third of American Workers Say Their Employers Prioritized Productivity Over Safety

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