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Workman’s Comp- the loss of common sense in the workplace

Boss: “Don’t hurt yourself while we are gone.”

Me: “… can I hurt *others*?”

Boss: “… As long as I don’t have to fill out an accident report on them.”

While there are a group of people who enjoy pain, and actually do seek to hurt themselves, this post is not about that.  So I would like to take this time to exclude those individuals who seek pleasure by inflicting pain on themselves or having others do it for them.

That being said, who, in an everyday work situation, seeks to screw up and hurt themselves? We have gone from a workplace enviroment where people were able to function as they saw fit to a workplace where really, they would just rather us not work.  The idea of “accidents happen, be more careful next time” has turned into “accidents can NEVER, EVER happen!”.

Our saftey officer’s name is now a curse word amongst our labs.  He really, genuinely would prefer if we could just do all of our research not in the lab. And if we absolutely must go into the lab then we have to wear almost every piece of PPE there is.  I guess i should be happy he is not militant about goggles or respiratory systems.  If he was militant about goggles I would just have them make me a perscription pair of saftey glasses and call it a day.

But I have two words for that man: MOUTH PIPETTE

That’s right.  People used to pipette things, all sorts of dangerous, radioactive, infectious, cancerous, noxious things with their mouth. Why?  Cause that was the way to get it done!  And this was not too long ago.  Pipettes with motors and the micropipetts are a fairly modern invention.

I will not ignore all the good things the saftey office has given us.  Labcoats are great, because it is always cold in the lab! Really, though, there are many things that do need to be handeled more conciously.  Radioactivity sheilds are important, gloves when handeling practically everything in the lab is important, being aware that the chemical you are about to dump all over the place is an eye and/or respiratory irritant is important.  These things need to be handled more conscientiously, with though, not with Nazi dictations.

It is important to let me do my job. My job which can actually be hindered if I have to take 30 minutes showering in an out because someone who needs to get real thinks that something that is dangerous to mice is going to put a dent in me.  I use Sweet N Low.  That’s right people.  I use the pink package.  You want to know why?  Because I weigh a good bit more than ~15-20 grams.  And I use less than 10+ grams a day.  However, if we are talking something that is leathal at a microliter to kilo level then that is a horse of a different color.  Both of these things involve my ability to reason.

The catering to the least common denominator is what has, to me, bred a generation of whiney idiots. People who have to be told exactly what to do because they are incablable of reasoning, for themselves, that if something is radioactive they should not touch it with their bare hands.  Or that if something is infectious they should minimize contact with it and everything it has touched.  Or, despite the fact that it is SUPER COOL to drink from a beaker, YOU SHOULD NOT EAT OR DRINK FROM LABORATORY GLASSWEAR! Do you KNOW what has been in that thing?  No, you don’t.  But you can imagine all the delightful possibilities, can’t you?  No.  You cannot.  Because making a grilled cheese on a hot plate (from the 1970’s because this is not a new lab) I just used to make paraformaldehyde buffer, and spilled some, just sounds too cool to pass up.  And when you end up ill you think, “Maybe that was not such a good idea.”  Welcome to the thought process.  You should habe been here an hour ago.

It is a legitimate statement that people who cannot use basic reason and logic should not be working in any type of laboratory setting.  If you are the least common denominator I do not want you anywhere near my research.  If you are not capable of looking through a protocol and saying “ok, that makes sense” you should likely not be here.

For example my peer gave me a protocol the other day.  I was thinking through it and it did not make sense that those particular steps would lead to the product I wanted.  It did not make sense.  So I discussed it with others, and went back to her and asked about my misgivings- low and behold she had forgotten the first, essential, part of the entire process.  Once I had learned the entire process I was able to say to myself “Now, this makes sense and will give me the product I want”.

You do not have to know intricate detail (that helps when trouble shooting, and helps tweak protocols, or knowing when you can take the lunch break), but a basic understanding of  “if I do this, what will happen?”.  Not exactly how, or why, just what.

Now, arguably, some research has shown that the brain does not fully develop until early to mid 20’s, and that lack of connection to the frontal lobe inhibits people’s ability to understand consequences and action-reaction in daily situations.  (Because we all know that teenagers sit for hours discussing “Well what would happen if you did this and he said that then she said that”. Ugg.)  However, by the time you are in college, and, presumably, by the time you are working your brain should be up and running, and you should really know not to use the old beaker as a glass for your coke.

If you can’t reason that out then you deserve to be stricken from the gene pool. Not getting workman’s comp, making everyone sit through TWO safety lectures, increasing our visits from the different safety organization, and loading your boss up with accident paperwork.

Time to return to allowing people to utilize their brain, and if they screw up then they get fired, not coddled.  This is not rocket science, this is common sense.

It is time for a little common sense to make a come back in the work place.  Accidents happen, be more careful next time.

(and next time don’t leave the papertowel with ethidium bromide on the countertop where I can get it all over me! Workman’s comp! Workman’s comp!)


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