Sunday, 7 April 2013

Poetry Month April 2013: Workplace Safety Poems

Safety? Poetry? You must be mad, I can hear you thinking. But no, there is such a thing and such a poet. Don Merrell specialises in writing poems about safety in the workplace.  Poetry has the advantage of appealing to the emotions. Safety at work is not only about check-lists  board papers, risk assessments and significant incident reviews. It's a mindset - and mindsets are about beliefs and values - which in turn are emotional factors.


I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.
It wasn’t that I didn’t care;
I had the time, and I was there.
But I didn’t want to seem a fool,
Or argue over a safety rule.
I knew he’d done the job before;
If I spoke up he might get sore.
The chances didn’t seem that bad;
I’d done the same, he knew I had.
So I shook my head and walked by;
He knew the risks as well as I.
He took the chance, I closed an eye;
And with that act, I let him die.
I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.
Now every time I see his wife,
I know I should have saved his life.
That guilt is something I must bear;
But isn’t’ something you need to share.
If you see a risk that others take
That puts their health or life at stake,
The question asked or thing you say;
Could help them live another day.
If you see a risk and walk away,
Then hope you never have to say,
“I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.”

How do I use this poem in the workplace?

Safety has an emotional angle and a poem like this allows a small group to discuss issues that might otherwise not be tabled in regular mtgs. I use this only in small groups so there is time and respect for listening to how it makes people feel. Do they have an example of when they "looked away". How did they feel? What might happen if they don't "look away".

Often patient safety is set up to be a systems issue - and it is. But it is also about individual mindsets and beliefs. This poem brings the individual to the fore and helps people understand their role in ensuring a safe process and workplace.

The issues are, of course, not about the poem, but about the workplace and what might be done to improve safety for all.

1 comment:

BrianSJ said...

Don't forget the classic