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Superstitions in Reference to Safety (Friday the 13th)

Friday the 13th movie poster

Every country has superstitions. Those beliefs or notions that while irrational and not scientific seem to persist in society. They can impact how people respond to situations at home and even at work. In honor of Friday, April 13th, let’s take a look at a few and how they might impact safety.

Superstition #1:  Fear of Friday the 13th

The Superstition
People cite multiple reasons for being afraid of this date every year. Some trace it back to the Christian religion and the belief Jesus died on a Friday and there were 13 guests at the Last Supper. Others say this day coincides with the arrest of so many Knights Templar. Those skilled fighters tasked with escorting people to and from the Holy Land. Some still have nightmares from Jason in his hockey mask from the movies around this date.

The Safety
Regardless of the history, there is nothing in any of the safety or transport regulations that says this date should be avoided. If you need a day off, follow your company policy and do it by the book. For those trivia buffs out there, the fear of the number 13 and/or this date is known as paraskevidekatriaphobia and friggatriskaidekaphobia. One is of Greek derivation the other is Norse.

Superstition #2: Do Not Walk Under Ladders

The Superstition
This one stems from either the Christian religion and the idea of the Holy Trinity or ancient Egyptian and the shape of the pyramids. A ladder either leaning against a wall or free-standing creates a triangle with the ground. Since triangles are three sided it correlates to the Holy Trinity and the shape of the pyramids. Someone walking under said ladder would be blasphemous in the eyes of certain beholders.

The Safety
Interestingly enough, from a safety point of view, not walking under a ladder is actually a good idea. OSHA even has an entire standard around ladder safety. Falls from ladders is one of the leaders of occupational or workplace injury. It is consistently on OSHA’s Top 10 Most Cited Violations. You certainly don’t want to be the reason someone falls or is injured.

Superstition #3: Throwing Salt Over Your Shoulder for Good Luck

The Superstition
Everyone does this. You’ve seen it on cooking shows, in restaurants, and even in people’s kitchens. Origins for this one can again be traced back to Christianity.

In the picture of “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci, Judas spilled salt on the table. Given the story of Judas, this spilled salt is associated with lies, deceit and therefore bad luck. So, by throwing a pinch of salt over your shoulder the thought is you are “blinding the devil” that stands behind you or reversing the luck.

The Safety
Spills in the workplace are never a good idea. These may lead to worker exposure to hazardous chemicals. If not cleaned up appropriately, it can lead to some slipping and falling. Yet again, this is another of OSHA’s Top Ten accidents. Depending on the material spilled you company are going to need procedures in place for how to clean it up. You may need Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response training (HAZWOPER) (OSHA 29CFR 1910.120) or even Spill Prevention Control Countermeasures (SPCC) (EPA 40CFR Part 112).


While these are just a few, take time to review your workplace and policies. Perhaps it is time for a review or refresh of your written safety plans. Maybe new signs are needed in certain areas. Perhaps you have yet to update your container or workplace labeling as required by OSHA HazCom2012 and the fast approaching WHMIS2015. Call us today to see how we can help.

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