Aberdeen has a wonderful beachfront. On a summers day it is packed with people enjoying the sand, the waves and the occasional ice cream. Sadly in August 2016 a double tragedy occurred. A mother and son died after getting into difficulties despite the assistance of a number of passers by including an off duty policeman.
In the few days afterwards, people paid their respects by leaving cards, flowers and cuddly toys as a tribute to those that lost their lives.
A few weeks later, I was walking down on the beachfront with my family. The memorial tributes were still there although long faded. It was a very windy day and the waves were crashing against the breakers; demonstrating their strength with every crash. And then I saw something I could hardly believe. A father and his 2 young teenage children were trying to get a photo with the waves crashing behind them onto the ledge they were standing. Their backs were to the waves and they were on the water soaked ledge. It almost seemed as if they were playing the game called Chicken. Being a safety leader, I thought to myself what on earth are these people doing? That’s pretty dangerous. Don’t they know about the family that suffered that terrible tragedy recently?
Safety leaders are trained and expected to intervene when they see something that appears unsafe.
Safety leaders are trained and expected to intervene when they see something that appears unsafe. Of course this wasn’t a work situation. I wasn’t connected to these people at all….and yet…I confess I wondered whether I should intervene and even delayed it for a few seconds. But I quickly decided that I had to at least try and have a conversation with them. I approached the mother who was standing further back and taking the pictures and asked if she was local, as I thought that maybe they were visiting Aberdeen and hadn’t heard about the terrible accident. She said that they were local and I then gently reminded her about the family that lost a mum and son due to the currents that had pulled them out into deeper sea. She didn’t really respond much, but I felt that I had done what I could and as we walked away, I suspect that she had a quick conversation with her husband as they moved a safer distance away from the waves.
Don’t just walk away
I am not the safety police and I don’t spend my life spoiling people’s fun. I hate preaching at people. It is difficult and awkward when we have safety conversations with people that we don’t know or are not in relationship with, yet because we care about people, we should never feel the pressure to shut up, ignore what we have seen and just walk away.
My learning and take-a-way from this is that we can get caught up in the moment and forget the hazards that surround us. Safety of our loved ones and ourselves is a 24/7 thing. It’s not just related to work.