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Whatever Works

Sniffing Out Safety Issues Is Truly Man’s Best Friend

By James Tehrani


Sniffing Out Safety Issues Is Truly Man’s Best Friend

By James Tehrani


WE RECENTLY ADOPTED A PUPPY. The shelter told us we were getting a cocker spaniel mix, but we weren’t so sure about that assessment. Sure enough, after we sent out a saliva sample for a DNA test, we learned our “cocker spaniel” was actually a mixture of an Australian cattle dog, Labrador retriever and a bunch of other canines as well.

As exciting as it was to have little Oreo scurrying around the house, it was also a big wake-up call for us. Our previous dog, Jasmine, who died in March had been a part of our lives for 18 years. Yes, 18 years! Going from a senior dog who was as low maintenance as they come to a puppy with a seemingly endless amount of energy was eye-opening.

After doing some research, we learned Aussies are smart dogs that were bred to work long hours herding. Oreo definitely doesn’t disappoint in that regard; he’s often a ball of energy, and he’s clever and persistent when he wants something.

Before we adopted Oreo (who was called “Ansel” at the time), we set up a meet and greet. The woman we were working with at the shelter said he would be ready to go home a week after our appointment, but when we got there, she told us that she made a mistake and he was eligible to go home with us that day.

While we fell in love with the pup and wanted to bring him home right away, we also panicked a bit. We knew we weren’t ready. We hadn’t “puppy-proofed” our home, but after hearing there were as many as 20 other people coming in that day who had expressed interest in Oreo, we decided we had to act now or risk losing this adorable pup.

Our kids were 14 and 12 at the time of the adoption, so our home hadn’t been baby-proofed in years. Plus, the things a puppy can get into are often much different than what a baby could. Puppies are also much quicker.

As we walked around our home looking for possible dangerous places for Oreo to go, the first thing that jumped out at me was the balusters on the stairs, especially the ones on the main level overlooking a roughly five-foot drop to the lower level of our trilevel home. While no human could fit through, I visualized this 7-pound pup wriggling through and dropping. Just as important, there was also a big cord behind our couch that needed to be covered up before it became a dangerous chew toy. So it was off to the hardware store to buy a lattice and cord protector.

Even with these and other safety issues we addressed, our curious puppy continued to show us things that could be dangerous to him that we never even thought of. I’d like to think it’s because he’s a safety expert, but nah.

The point is that in the home, and especially in the workplace, there are hidden dangers that exist that quite possibly have never been considered before. Or maybe they have, but that information hasn’t been properly communicated to other workers.

Earlier this year, I checked out an OSHA webinar about preparing for Safe + Sound Week. One of the panelists who worked at a theater in New Orleans talked about how her organization participated the previous year. A couple of the activities they planned for their workers were a safety scavenger hunt as well as a spot-the-hazard game. Teams scoured the facility for hazards, such as an open bottle of chemicals in a cleaning closet and a blocked exit door in the balcony. It’s not surprising that the panelist reported that the event was not only fun for the workers but also enlightening .

Getting people to spot risks before an incident or near-miss occurs should be ingrained in any organization’s culture. Using fun tactics such as a scavenger hunt or hazard game can promote not only safety but team bonding as well. True workplace safety is ever-evolving because new risks develop all the time. Don’t believe me? Just the other day, Oreo brought me a screw. I have no idea where he found it, but it just shows there’s no shortage of risks out there for puppies—and that holds true for humans in the workplace as well.



BY JAMES TEHRANI
James Tehrani is an award-winning editor and writer based in Chicago. He has more than 20 years of experience in publishing, including editorial roles at Workforce, Modern Healthcare and Consumers Digest. He has also hosted a Web video interview program called "The Wacky World of Work."