Superstitions in Reference to Safety – Take 3

Another Friday the 13th is upon us.  This is the third time we will look at a few superstitions to see if there is any benefit to us in regards to safety.  Keep in mind I am using superstition in a broad sense. For this blog, a superstition is any idea or belief that may not be entirely rational or scientific but is still used today.

Superstition #1:  Holding Your Breath While Passing a Cemetery

Death is always an odd subject that triggers varied reactions in people.  For many it is a sad time due to the loss of a loved one or friend.  A wake and funeral are held to honor their passing.  For others it is a chance to celebrate someone’s life, like the Second Line Parades in New Orleans.  For this particular superstition, you are supposed to hold your breath to prevent recently passed or evil spirits from possessing you to live life again.

From a transport point of view, this probably isn’t too great of an idea and should never be done.  In fact, there are several published articles in medical journals stating the negative effects of holding your breath for too long.  Some of the negative impacts are issues with blood sugar, coordination and even neurological damage.  Imagine a truck driver holding his breath as he passes a cemetery, especially a large one that runs along the highway.  Depending on how big it is, he could put himself and other folks on the road at risk. 

Superstition #2:  Opening an Umbrella Inside Results in Bad Luck

While the origins are not exactly clear, this may be a superstition that started in reality but is no longer relevant.  Some believe this comes from ancient Egypt.  The prominent people of that time used various feathers, plant limbs and what have you to protect themselves from the sun.  However, if one was opened inside the sun god would be angered causing all sorts of bad things to happen.  The other idea is from the traditional umbrellas that were first invented back in the 18th century.  These were not the slim, sleek and well-controlled ones like we have today.  Generally speaking, early umbrellas were quite large with strong heavy metal spines.  They were opened by releasing a spring. This means anyone or anything nearby was at the mercy of the umbrella.

Funny enough, to me this one has some merit from a safety perspective.  When most people open umbrellas, they are not paying attention to the space around them.  This means people and objects could again be in the unsafe path of umbrella as it opens. Add to that the size of some of them today and I kind of agree.  Opening one of these inside a building could result in someone getting hurt.  Can you imagine having an OSHA reportable injury for someone losing an eye due to an umbrella?

Superstition #3:  Knocking on Wood Provides Good Luck

This one is also written as knocking on wood prevents bad luck or bad omens.  The beginnings of this one can be traced back to religious beliefs.  People would knock on wood because they wanted to wake up the spirits or supernatural creatures that lived in the trees.  These spirits and creatures then would provide protection or have them work in that person’s favor.   

When looking at this with an eye towards safety, there aren’t any negative impacts. You certainly don’t do this before a package leaves your facility or when it is loaded onto a truck.  There are enough things to consider in those circumstances rather than adding this on top of those responsibilities.  Of course, if you do it and were to tell people why, you may get some raised eyebrows and funny looks. 

Since this is the third time for this type of blog, I will ask you a few questions.  When was the last time you reviewed your workplace safety plans?  Better yet, have you completed your annual review of your site’s hazmat security plan?   Are there any faded or peeling signs in the warehouse?  For those in the US, is your workplace labeling fully compliant with OSHA HazCom2012?   In Canadian workplaces, have you finished all of your WHMIS2015 SDS conversions?  Are your hazmat training records complete? If you answered no to any of these questions, give us a call today to see how we can help.

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