Safety is a Daily Choice

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One of the key responsibilities of a fast lube operator is to ensure their work environments are safe for their employees and customers. Following are six safety slogans, which one web site thought were some of the cleverest:

·           Protect your hands; you need them to pick up your paycheck.

·           Live to spend your 401K. Don’t get killed at work today.

·           Your precious fingers you shouldn’t ignore, they just may end up on the floor.

·           Pencils have erasers; mishaps don’t!

·           Safety is a mission not an intermission.

·           Safety doesn’t happen by accident.

Clever or not, there are endless additional samples of safety reminders you could choose to post in your service center. Using safety slogans is one method of helping your fast lube crew keep safety practices constantly in mind. However, depending on whom you ask, such slogans may or may not contribute to a reduction in workplace mishaps. I for one believe any efforts employed to keep safe practices top-of-mind are of value. But having said that, I have a much more adamant belief in the thought expressed by Edward R. Murrow: “Our major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions.”

Let me reiterate that thought by saying safety slogans, safety posters, safety manuals and all the rest are not, and never will be, the solution when it comes to reducing workplace accidents and injuries to your customers and employees. Safe practices in your operation will be reliably followed only as a result of your willingness, as owner/operator, to do one thing a number of times each and every day. That one thing; make a choice!

Just three of the daily safety choices you will need to make include:

·           Choosing to understand safety regulations, posters, manuals, etc. are nothing more than antecedents.

·           Choosing to deliver consequences, consistently, when safety rules are ignored and or complied with.

·           Choosing to make the safety of your employees and customers a daily priority.

If I could offer a quotation of my own with respect to safety it would be this, “The safety of your workplace is a product of your daily choices.”

In this column we will spend our time illustrating the real-life benefits and tragedies when good and poor safety-related choices are made.


In behavioral terms, an antecedent is anything that precedes or prompts a particular behavior. Examples of antecedents are stop signs, speed limit signs and do not enter signs. The question to be answered is, do antecedents change behavior? Well, let’s see; does everyone stop at stop signs, drive the posted speed limit or stay out of areas marked “do not enter?” I am certain you have answered those questions correctly, No.

The same holds true when it comes to safety postings and warnings in your service areas. Antecedents do play a role, primarily one of awareness, but cannot be thought of as the solution to safety issues.

A True Story

Jim, the manager of a fast lube center for just a few months, observed on a daily basis the lower-bay technicians routinely failed to close the pit covers following a service. He would mention the oversight every time he saw it and even took the step to place reminder signage that stated, “Close the Pit Covers!”

One afternoon, as a serviced vehicle was driven out of the service bay, an 80-year old customer walked into the bay area, at the opposite end of the building, to ask about getting a service. As you may have guessed, the customer failed to notice the open pit, tripped, fell into the lower bay and lost his life as a result of head injuries.

The critical daily choice that Jim failed to make was delivering meaningful consequences to service staff for failing to close the pit covers. Appropriate consequences should have included such actions as sending personnel home for not adhering to the policy. Consequences change behavior; antecedents do not!


Once again in behavioral terms, consequences are what occur following a particular act. Remember, even doing nothing is a consequence. For example, if as a manager you see an employee do something correctly, like assisting a customer with children safely to the waiting area, and you say nothing to the employee about that correct behavior, the employee will receive the message that it’s unimportant.

A True Story

Albert, a longtime center manager, witnessed one of his service crew personnel warn a fellow employee not to smoke in the center, as it was a safety hazard. Noting the act, Albert immediately expressed appreciation to the employee for acting on a potential safety hazard. When you see either a desirable behavior to make the workplace safer or a violation of safe practices, it is vital to consistently deliver a meaningful consequence every time you witness it.

It is important to note in the history fast lubes, at least one service center was destroyed by an explosion, resulting in the death of an employee, when, reportedly, a staff member was smoking in an area where chemical fumes were present. Delivering meaningful consequences related to safe work practices can save lives!

In the first instance, the critical daily choice Albert made was a concerted effort to notice, then comment on, efforts by his employees to comply with safe work practices. In addition, Albert would periodically recognize their correct safety efforts with a tangible reinforcement like giving them movie tickets, buying lunch or some other reinforcer that was important to the employee. Again, correctly delivering consequences will have the biggest impact on safety for your employees and your customers.   

Making Safety a Priority

The things your employees will treat as important are the things you spend time talking about, pointing out and acting on. When you understand the proper role of antecedents and consequences, with respect to safe practices in you service center, and you make the daily choice to notice then act, your employees will know safety is a priority and not just a sign on the wall.       

I offer one more personal quote to fast lube operators in your efforts to create a safe environment for all who enter your service facility, “You design the safety environment of your service center through the power of your daily choices.” 

In support of your efforts to emphasize safe practices with your employees, and for your customers, I would like to offer you a free safety poster, designed specifically for fast lube safety concerns. This column will be one of a series of columns this year focusing on the variety of safety issues you are responsible for every day. You may obtain one of a dozen posters, associated with each column, by sending an email request to:

I would like to hear your thoughts on safety in your operation. Please email me at:    

MATT DIPAULO is the Channel Marketing manager - Workshops for Castrol brands and has been with BP Lubricants, USA, Inc. for 16 years. He can be reached at:

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