A teaching moment

Shortly after the March issue of Safety+Health was published, I received an email from a reader who asked, “You were just testing us, right?”

He was referring to the cover photo, which also appears on p. 40 of that issue. The ladder in the photo, it turns out, is positioned backward. Compounding this is the fact that a different photo on p. 43 shows another backward ladder. This in an article offering tips on ladder safety.

Considering the purpose of this publication, I felt dismay and embarrassment such as I haven’t experienced in a long time. I also braced myself for gloating “ha-ha” emails and, sure enough, two arrived in quick succession. But as emails and calls kept coming, a different pattern emerged …

I soon realized I was witnessing safety professionals in their element – and at their best. Spotting an unsafe scenario, they immediately alerted me to it and recommended corrective action. This I expected. What moved me was what came next. Many readers offered not only their expertise, but their encouragement. One stressed that correcting mistakes and learning from them is part of the path to continuous improvement. Some expressed support through humor, including a gentleman from OSHA who finished up an email strand with a witty remark that advised me, in effect, to stop beating myself up. I’ve never seen a magazine audience respond with such generosity and the desire to provide a teaching moment.

Print is a permanent record. The ladder safety article will always be out there, and I’ll never be able to look at it without cringing inside. But this experience, although humiliating, has been hugely valuable. I’ve always known that safety pros as a whole are a group of caring individuals who truly believe in what they do, but now I’ve felt the full power of it. And I’ll always remember it. Thank you.

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