Are You Heading for an Accident?
By “Awake!” correspondent in Brazil
THE little boy skipped happily up the back fire escape of the apartment house. Three stories up he paused to look down on the concrete driveway below. Afterward, he couldn’t remember slipping under the railing and falling over 30 feet (9 meters). When he awoke, he looked up at several people dressed in white crowding around him. Yes, he was in the hospital, listed as an “accident victim.”
Tragedies such as this are all too common today. Even more frequent are job-related accidents. For example, despite safety programs, West Germany reported nearly 2,000,000 occupational accidents among its 26 million wage earners in 1975. In Brazil, 40 work-related accidents are said to happen every minute. And according to the May 1976 issue of the Brazilian magazine Construtor the “great number of accidents . . . is increasing instead of decreasing—at a rate of approximately 15% a year.”
Some authorities estimate that each year one in four persons has an accident requiring a doctor’s care. Knowing this, you are confronted with several unpleasant questions: Am I heading for an accident? Is there anything that I can do to avoid having one? Am I really more “accident prone” than others?
First, it is important to realize that there are steps that you can take that will drastically decrease your chances of an accident. Safety experts contend that over 90 percent of all accidents could have been prevented. They occur because of a lack of information, carelessness or unsafe conditions. They rarely arise out of seemingly unavoidable circumstances.
Thus, you are turning away from accidents when (1) you know the safe way to do things and (2) you develop habits consistent with this knowledge. Really, your personality is involved.
The “Accident-Prone” Person
It is not a myth that some persons are more accident prone than others. Studies show that “Mr. Walking Disaster” consistently displays certain traits. He is usually lacking a degree of emotional control—being either easily angered or frustrated or tense. Obviously, following the Bible admonition to control your spirit can also protect your body.—Prov. 14:17; 25:28.
Also, the accident-prone person is often ignorant of the exact details of the equipment that he is handling. Thirdly, he is careless of long-established safety rules, tending to feel that he can handle any situation or that “what will be, will be.” These tendencies, coupled with errors in judging the reflex ability of his body, likely will cause “Mr. Disaster” to live up to his name.
However, while just reading will not automatically force you to form new habits, knowledge of practical safety tips, if applied, could save you much pain, even your very life. Surely, you do not need to burn your fingers on the stove to establish that the stove is hot. Through the pain and suffering of thousands at the hands of that rough teacher Experience, safety rules have been established. A brief look at their history will encourage your taking them seriously.
A Brief History of Accident Prevention
Interestingly, one of the earliest “safety codes” was incorporated in the Bible as part of what is called the Mosaic law. The Israelites were commanded to build parapets around the edges of their rooftops so that people would not fall off. Wells often were surrounded by low walls and had to be covered to prevent animals or humans from falling into them. There were laws to encourage fire prevention and respect for animal and human life.—Deut. 22:8; Ex. 21:33, 34; 22:6; Num. 35:22-25.
In other nations, a fatalistic view prevailed for millenniums. Only in the wake of the so-called Industrial Revolution did legislators enact anything comparable to the accident-prevention laws found in the Mosaic law. Until the beginning of the seventeenth century, practically everything was produced in the home by the family and their servants. There were no big factories and complicated transportation systems. Work-related accidents were minimal when compared with today.
However, with the advent of machines for mass production and transportation, moved at first by powerful steam engines and later by gasoline engines or electric motors, hazards increased and so did serious accidents. The wretched and hazardous conditions to which many industrial workers were subjected in those days, especially in England and Germany, became notorious. Even women and children worked long hours to the point of exhaustion—increasing accidents. Blinded by selfishness and greed, many employers gave little thought to safety precautions.
Official Efforts in Recent Times
In time, many governments and businesses began to recognize how harmful work and traffic accidents were to their communities. Economic setbacks through loss of working hours, medical bills and damage to property and merchandise, besides adverse psychological effects, made action imperative.
Consequently, motivated to some degree by humanitarian reason but especially by economic considerations, all sorts of accident-prevention measures have been taken. In some industrialized nations this began during the first half of the nineteenth century, when safety laws were introduced. Naturally, many of these laws have undergone changes since then. As recently as December 1970 the Occupational Safety and Health Act was made law in the United States. Similar revisions were made in other countries too, as in Brazil in 1967 and 1976.
Moreover, nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations were established for the sole purpose of accident prevention. To name just two:’ ABPA (Brazilian Association for Accident Prevention) and the National Safety Council in the United States. Some of the objectives of the latter are “to further, encourage, and promote methods and procedures leading to increased safety, protection, and health among employees and employers and among children.” Basically, the same objectives are pursued by similar organizations world wide.
Insurance companies, of course, are also very interested in reducing accidents. Accordingly, they have made available printed material, posters, films and other types of publicity for educational safety campaigns. Recognizing the importance of cooperating with such campaigns, individual firms have done their part by establishing committees or departments in charge of safety and accident prevention. Many of them also provide safety shoes and devices such as hand protectors and equipment to protect the hearing, the sight and the face. Then, too, special accident-prevention courses have been sponsored in order to make people more safety-conscious.
This extensive concern on the part of the authorities illustrates how big the problem has become and how much pain, sorrow and damage could be avoided if all of us showed genuine interest in our own welfare and that of others. However, all of this may make learning the “safety rules” sound complicated. Really the principles are few and easily learned. Let’s consider what you can do to improve drastically your chances of avoiding an accident.
Personal Safety at Work
Since statistics show that work-related accidents are the most common, here are a few safety rules that will be helpful to workers in industry, transportation systems, agriculture and, especially, to those in the construction trades, who are the most frequent victims of serious work accidents.
A Fresh Look at Accident Prevention
1. Take your work seriously. Lack of attention, horseplay, the taking of chances, and the running of risks for thrills could cost you your life.
2. Strictly obey safety rules and make use of all personal protective equipment recommended for your job. Do not think that using it is unnecessary or ridiculous.
3. Train yourself in the six steps of safe weight lifting: (a) Keep feet apart—one alongside, one behind the object. (b) Keep back straight, almost vertical. (c) Tuck chin in. (d) Grip the object with both hands. (e) Tuck elbows and arms in. (f) Keep your body directly over your feet, using your leg muscles to do the lifting.
4. Whenever you have to work in an isolated place, offering potential safety hazards, make sure that you are accompanied by others or are within shouting distance of them.
5. Recognize hazards ahead of time by being observant, alert and familiar with safety standards and with the properties of the materials that you have to handle.
6. Any equipment of critical importance to the safe performance of your job should be checked each time that it is to be used. Never presume anything. Machines are governed by natural laws, not by intelligent reasoning.
7. Avoid riding devices designed to lift or transport only cargo.
8. Make a habit of good housekeeping: Clean up any spills immediately. Keep tools in their proper place. Also, all solvent-soaked rags should be disposed of in airtight metal receptacles.
9. Cleaning, repairing, adjusting and most lubricating of machines should be done with all power sources and valves shut off. Only authorized workers should have access to power sources.
10. Guards on the machine are for your protection; therefore, never leave them off while operating. Always keep in mind that loose clothing or long hair can very easily get caught in machines.
Personal Safety at Home
An article headed “25% of All Accidents Happen at Home” was published in the December 1976 issue of the Brazilian Jornal da Prevenção de Acidentes (Journal of Accident Prevention). The article pointed out that “most of the victims are generally children and women. Often the cases are fatal.” According to Maxwell N. Halsey, an authority on accident prevention, the main cause of death among children of all age-groups is accidents. Therefore, listed below are some practical hints on how to protect yourself and your children at home:
1. Protect small children from falling out of windows or down the stairs by installing protective grates or gates. Other falls can be avoided by keeping the floor in good repair, free of any obstacles and not too highly polished.
2. Have all electrical outlets properly covered or isolated, especially those within the reach of children. Tots like to poke things into receptacles, and so there is danger of their being electrocuted.
3. Make sure that all sinks, bathtubs and washing tanks are properly attached to the wall. Otherwise, they can easily be tipped over by children, causing serious injuries.
4. Do not permit your little ones to play with matches, lighters, pieces of glass, knives, scissors, or other dangerous objects. Do not provide them with toys that may harm them through breakage, inflicting cuts, choking them, and so on. Make sure that they understand why such things must be avoided, and set a good example yourself.
5. Pots and pans on the stove should always be turned with their handles toward the center of the stove, so that small children cannot reach them and adults do not knock them over accidentally.
6. Drugs, detergents, pesticides, alcohol, sprays and other chemical substances hazardous to health should be kept in a safe place out of children’s reach. Also, never tell them that medicine is “candy.”
7. Never put toxic liquids into bottles or pots normally used for drinking or cooking purposes. Make sure that each of these liquids is clearly identified as to its use and purpose and is kept in its original container.
8. Do not keep firearms around the house, or, if you have to, keep them unloaded and under lock and key. Handle them with extreme care.
9. When cleaning or polishing the floor, avoid using inflammable substances such as naphtha or gasoline. A spark from the floor polisher might set the fumes on fire.
10. Never put flowerpots or other heavy objects on windowsills or in similar places. Falling off, they can cause bad injuries.
Safety Precautions While on Vacation
Recreation periods are supposed to bring enjoyment, but too often they are spoiled by an accident. The share that traffic accidents have in this is alarming. More people are said to be killed and injured yearly on the roads than in wars. Specialists feel, though, that 85 to 90 percent of all traffic and transportation-related accidents could be avoided. Human failure is the chief cause. To illustrate: Recently, restrictions on speed limits, caused by the world’s energy crisis, resulted in a lower rate of fatal accidents on highways. That is why some basic traffic rules are included among these safety suggestions.
1. Do not “relax” while driving just because you are on vacation or because the highway is “empty.”
2. Always keep your car in safe condition. Periodically check tires, brakes, doors and other vital parts. Neglect could make you an unintentional manslayer.
3. Be familiar with basic first-aid procedures and make it a point to carry a first-aid kit in your car; also a fire extinguisher.
4. Strictly heed all traffic regulations and warnings provided for your safety. There are good reasons for their existence.
5. Even if you know how to swim, ski or ride a bicycle, never take unnecessary chances.
6. Be careful whenever near animals, domestic or wild.
7. Keep away from disturbances or mobs.
Your Personal Share of Responsibility
Of course, many other “do’s” and “don’t’s” could be added to these lists. But these points are sufficient to illustrate basic principles; they are not meant to restrict you to the point of losing the joy of living. If you apply them, they can make you more safety-conscious. As a factory supervisor in Brazil, with many years of experience, put it: “Safety rules only become meaningful when people believe in them. As long as you think: ‘It won’t happen to me,’ you are a potential victim.”
Remember, statistics time and again have shown that only about 2 percent of all accidents can rightly be attributed to unforeseen occurrence, as well as to human imperfection.—Eccl. 9:11.
More than anything else, deep respect for the sacredness of human life, coupled with genuine love of neighbor, should motivate us to do everything within our power to prevent accidents. We are all accountable to the Giver of life for the way we use it.
Fortunately, the little boy mentioned at the beginning of this article survived his fall. But how much better to save a child or an adult from the agony of sudden pain! Most of the time, “what will be,” will be only what we allow it to be.
[Picture on page 19]
Which safety rule did her mother fail to obey?