Safety is More Than Checking Boxes

Untimely death sends a safety professional on a life-long mission.

Bridget Ballek
June 24, 2019

Regina McMichael started her safety journey the day her husband died.

While working on a roof, Regina’s husband, Kevin, lost his footing, fell forward and landed on the ground.

“It was the perfect example of, ‘it’s not the fall, it’s the landing,' " Regina said. “Out of all the places he could have landed, he landed on concrete.

“I was 20-years-old, I had just gotten married. No one knew what to say to a 20-year-old widow.”

The lack of safety measures that led to Kevin’s untimely death has sent Regina on a lifelong mission to represent the human side of safety in her career as a safety professional. A recent survey from the National Safety Council shows that Regina is not alone in her uphill climb.

Preventable deaths are now the 3rd leading cause of death among Americans. That’s why this year’s National Safety Month is more important than ever to rally around the importance of safety and the work that safety professionals do every day.

According to the survey, a staggering four in 10 people have been directly impacted by preventable deaths – just like Regina – but only 49% of those surveyed believe the U.S. can eliminate most “accidental” deaths. Sadly, more than one-third view the task as hopeless.

“When I tell people who aren’t in the safety industry what I do, they say, ‘Oh, so OSHA?’ They think it’s about following the law. That’s an important part, but safety is about asking yourself, ‘how do I keep the person next to me alive?’ ”

Regina said there is a quantum leap between seeing safety as just checking boxes to seeing it as a way to save someone’s life every day. Research shows that preventable deaths are completely avoidable but many people focus on the wrong things. The survey asked respondents about their biggest safety fears, and more are concerned about homicide (80%) and accidental shootings (79%), when really a person has 1 in 24 lifetime odds of dying from a preventable incident.

National Safety Month may be a month-long observance, but safety is a lifelong commitment. Regina lives and breathes safety because she knows first-hand the devastation that happens when safety takes a day off.

“I met someone who lost her spouse around the same time I did. I wish I knew her then. I wish I was able to go back in time and help them.”

For those who believe it’s not possible to eliminate preventable deaths, who from your family and friends would you volunteer to work on the day safety takes a break?

“Safety isn’t about just checking boxes,” Regina said. “That’s compliance. Safety is about humanity.”

Bridget Ballek

Bridget Ballek is the former public relations manager at the National Safety Council.

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