Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Keeping the Alligators Away

Guest Post From John Olesky, CSP

As a safety specialist, I can relate alligators to accidents. We all know that most accidents are caused by a chain of events usually starting with something minor that continues through the chain until these minor issues lead to something larger--the accident. Usually, it is not just one factor that causes the accidents, so if we as safety professionals can break the chain of events we can prevent most accidents.

Not long ago, I visited Louisiana. As I talked to some locals, I heard they had problems with alligators coming into their yards and attacking their livestock and pets--and sometimes even going after their children. However, most of those I spoke with did not know what to do about it.

Then, one sweet older lady spoke up, claiming she had a great solution to keeping the alligators out of her yard. This is what she said (and be sure to think about the accident chain of events as you consider this exchange):

"This is how I keep alligators out of my yard," she said. "I just stopped feeding the birds."

"Well, how does that help?" we asked.

"When you feed the birds, they scatter the bird feed all over and a lot of it drops on the ground," she explained. "Then the field mice come and eat the bird seed on the ground. So, the snakes come in and eat the field mice. Then the wild pigs come in and eat the snakes. And then the alligators come in to eat the snakes and wild pigs. Stop feeding the birds and the alligators will not come into your yard."

We were all amused, but she insisted it works.

So, as SH&E professionals, let's think about the many little things we observe when conducting safety inspections that seem minor, like bird seed knocked to the ground. Then, think about how that builds to the alligators showing up, and how we might prevent them from showing up.