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Workplace Safety - You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd

workplace safety

Workplace safety - how can we make it better? The answer is 'communication'. Employers should talk to employees – let them know their safety is paramount. Employees should talk to the employer – 'these are the unsafe conditions'. Employees should talk to one another – communicate that we're all watching out for each other.

With apologies to Roger Miller, singer and song writer (King of the Road), I'd like to use the title of this song as a metaphor for workplace safety.

I first heard this song when it hit the charts and was an instant best seller in 1967. I was still in high school. In the Roger Miller style, it was meant to be nonsensical and serious at the same time. The lead-in line in the chorus was, 'You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd'. The last line was, 'But you can be happy if you've a mind to'.

Everyone instantly understands why 'You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd'. It is obviously dangerous. The odds of getting hurt far outweigh the chances of making it through unscathed. Here's another point (and an important one) – the buffalo aren't trying to hurt you. They are just wandering around doing what buffalo's do – eating grass, scratching their back, taking care of their calves. In theory, inside a buffalo herd is the safest place to be.

Eventually, when you have large objects and lots of movement – someone is going to get hurt. It wasn't intentional, it was an accident. That's why they are called accidents (an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury).

Think about the workplace. It's a lot like a buffalo herd. There are lots of large objects and lots of movement. It was designed to be safe. Management, more than anyone else, has invested a great deal of money and effort in making sure it is safe. Eventually, an accident will occur.

Anyone can decide not to 'roller skate in a buffalo herd'. They cannot decide not to go into the workplace. That's where they earn their living. For the employer, bringing employees into the work place is critical – that's how they produce their product or service.

The workplace, and its inherent risk, is the constant. The variable is the employers and the employees. Together they can work to make the environment safer – safer for the employees and less expensive for the employers.

The benefit is the employee gets to continue to be a contributing member of the work force and gets to continue to earn a paycheck so they can take care of family and the ones they love. For the employer, workplace injuries may mean the difference in whether they can hire one more full time employee.

How can this be accomplished? The answer is 'communication'.

01Employers should talk to employees – let them know their safety is paramount.

02Employees should talk to their employer – 'these are the unsafe conditions'.

03Employees should talk to one another – communicate that we're all watching out for each other.

The combined effort will be better for all – better than, 'Roller skating in a buffalo herd'.

"You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd"
I'd like to change the last line of the chorus – "But you can be safe if you've a mind to".

  Bill Cobb

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