…people had to read and to write the entire rule book every two years…
When you cut all the way down to the quick then you might say that safety consists mostly with a whole mess of do’s and don’ts. When I began working for the railroad they had a big, thick rule book and the transportation people had to read and to write the entire rule book every two years or so, whatever it was for their particular occupation. I mean write it! They would have to hours writing out that darn book from cover to cover in their own handwriting.It didn’t do much good because nearly every one of those was violated in the daily operation of the railroad in the cause of expediency. Switchmen were supposed to get off of cars and engines at no more than four miles per hour. You could stand around the railroad yard for just a few minutes before you would see this rule violated time and time again.
When someone got hurt or when there was a serious incident involving a crash of some time the trainmasters and others would take out the rule books and point out the rule violations and often someone would be disciplined for a rule violation. It was pure hypocrisy. That old question, “Do you want it done safely or do you want it done now?” could often be heard. Generally the response.was, “Now!”
That whole process could be summed up with “Do what I say, not what I do.” A great learning environment for new workers. Eventually, in most cases, times changed and so did safety practices. The numbers of injuries on the job have dropped dramatically and yes, today is a safer world. Hopefully we now live in a “Do what I do.” world. Of course, often, you know and I know that it just ain’t so. – Art Fettig