A day that changed my life forever

By Ron Pereira Updated on September 8th, 2010

It was early evening – around 7:00 PM.

I was leaving the plant I was visiting that week and noticed a second shift operator preparing to start his day.

I went over to say hi to the young man. He was a nice fellow… he had one of those contagious smiles on his face and seemed very happy to be at work which I found refreshing.

I asked him what his plans were for the evening and he explained the tasks he had before him in a cheerful and extremely positive manner.

I said good-bye to young man and went about my way.

A day I will never forget

The next morning, as we pulled up to the plant, I could tell something was wrong. Very wrong.

There were police all around and TV camera trucks everywhere.

As it turned out the worst possible thing that could ever happen in a manufacturing organization occured.

You see, the young man I spoke to just a few hours before had been killed as a result of a workplace accident.

It’s not my intention to get into the details of what happened or what could have prevented the accident.

Instead, the reason I am sharing this sobering story – one that has forever changed the way I look at workplace safety – is to drive home the fact that nothing, and I do mean nothing, is more important than ensuring all employees go home safely at the end of their work day/evening.

5S or 6S?

A few weeks ago I asked if we should call it 5S or 6S… many of you left excellent comments.

And while I am actually indifferent as to whether an extra S should be added to 5S… one thing I am not indifferent to is how important safety actually is.

So, the next time someone rolls their eyes and explains why the “safety police” are so annoying… I’d encourage you to remind them of how awful it would be to have to call someone’s significant other in order to explain why their loved one is never coming home.

What about you?

What events have shaped you as it relates to workplace safety? I pray nothing terrible like my story.

  1. Tim McMahon

    September 7, 2010 - 2:05 pm

    Ron, I couln’t agree more with the importance of safety. If you get safety and quality right then everything else is a whole lot easier. The STOP culture as in “When in doubt STOP, go find out.” not to be confused with the Dupont program is ver important. Tracking near miss incident and working root cause analysis to prevent re-occurance is vital. And finally behavior based safety observations are extremely helpful in prevent workplace accidents. You really need a zero tolerance view on this sort of thing.

    This is a great reminder of what is really important. Returing home from a good days work safely.

  2. Rick Foreman

    September 8, 2010 - 6:15 am

    Sadly enough, we experienced a very similar story in a landing gear facility that I worked at several years ago. We had an individual on 3rd shift that was working on a large “gap lathe” and somehow was killed in an accident. I’ve also assisted with guys in the plant who were having heart attacks and other severe injuries and cuts. It really caused this place to move towards a behavioral approach, which resulted in 2 million hours before a lost time injury. The loss of a fellow worker is tough to overcome and seeing others get hurt is painful in itself. I’m with you on the importance of safety and assuring that our team members have an environment that assures their well being at all times.

  3. Mark R Hamel

    September 8, 2010 - 6:36 am

    Hi Ron,

    Similar story, fortunately without a fatality. A maintenance person was removing a large (and tall) tubular steel rack with the assistance of a forklift. He and his co-workers did not secure the rack to a nearby pillar. The rack came crashing down on the maintenance worker, slammed him to the floor and fractured his skull. Fortunately. he survived this life-threatening injury.

    I came upon the aftermath. After ensuring that he was getting medical help, I (a consultant) went to go rouse the VP of Ops and his staff from a meeting. The person whom I sent in was told by the VP that they still had to finish their meeting. UNBELIEVABLE! One of his pillars was obviously disrespect for the worker. I will never forget that…or forgive it.

  4. Kevin

    September 8, 2010 - 7:28 am

    Safety seems to be a theme among lean blogs over the last couple days, which is great! Lean is all about respect for people, and what better way to demonstrate that respect than by making safety the number one priority. Mark, Jamie, Lee, and I have all written about the importance of having safety a key component of the daily stand up meeting, in my case it’s the very first topic, and the impact it has on safety itself and also the culture and people. Mine’s below:


  5. Christian Paulsen

    September 8, 2010 - 7:44 am

    What a sobering story. Fortunately I’ve never been worked at a plant that experienced a fatality. Some of my plant had one in their history but those were always in the distant past. The reality of some of the more serious injuries that I have seen is enough to scare you straight though. Whether it’s 5S or 6S, safety must be the foundation and a pre-requisite. Thanks for sharing.


  6. Christian Paulsen

    September 8, 2010 - 7:47 am

    I should add that the absolutely best safety video I’ve seen is Remember Charlie. I was fortunate enough to see Charlie speak in person and have shown the video to several teams in 4 plants. This video will get everyone who sees it thinking twice about safety. Charlie talks about his near fatal accident and how it’s affected him and his family.


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