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Crying Wolf

 

I came into work recently and immediately got caught up in the rumor mill.  Earlier that day an employee caught his finger in a cog of a machine.  There was blood, screaming, and a fingertip found on the floor as the drama unfolded.  It was a horrific experience for this unfortunate worker.

The reason I bring this up however is because the news that spread around the plant was more about the line’s reaction to the incident than this poor employee losing his fingertip.

The incident went like this:

  1. The employee stuck his finger in a hole of his machine
  2. His fingertip pinched off.
  3. He screamed bloody murder.
  4. No one looked up.

….ehhhhhh…huh?

The most surprising, and talked about, part of the whole ordeal was the employee who held up a cookie a second  later, still not looking up, and said, “blood!”   Truly not one soul bothered to look up and see the emergency unfolding less than 10 feet away.  Many of the line workers didn’t know it happened until the cleaning crew started sanitizing the line.

Now how could this happen?  Was it because the workers on the line could care less?  In this case no.  Was it because of noise or distance from the scene?  Nope; Line workers talk to each other the entire day.  The issue here is simply over stimulation….that is to say, crying wolf.

Crying Wolf

In Aesop’s Fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” a boy is assigned to watch the town flock of sheep.  He gets bored and decides to have some fun with the townsfolk by repeatedly crying, “Wolf!” to the startled townspeople.  After a few false alarms a wolf does come and attack the flock.  The boy sounded the alarm, but the townspeople weren’t going to be startled again.  His false alarms had overstimulated them and they simply shut him down.  They paid no attention to him.

Such it is with the wolf criers of today.  Those who feed off of the attention they get startling others at work will find themselves alone when their jokes become sincere pleas for help.

This highlightes a major safety factor, that of believability.  In our finger incident described above, this employees believablility was shot months previous because of his loud and boisterous antics on the line.  As believability decreases a safety gap increases.

As one becomes less believable to their peers, a major safety risk grows.

So what can be done about the crying wolf syndrome?  Well, one manager I know has banned speaking on the line at all. Not an extremely popular move from the employees’ point of view, but increadibly effective from a safety standpoint.

Short of banning communication (bold and absolute), education is really the only solution.  A ”Crying Wolf” campaign with announcements, posters, memos, daily monitoring by administration and assigned workers, whatever suites the need of the facility.

Fortunately for our unfortunate employee, his fingertip was reattatched.  He has another gory story to get attention with.  Once back on the line, he has learned a harsh lessson.  Howl at the moon on your own time, but at work never, ever, EVER cry wolf.

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