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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJune 12 - June 18, 2019

Are You In the Safety Loop?

Safety-First-Sign-768x768 38990By Brian J. Riker

As the year comes to a close I look back at all we have accomplished in 2018. As it should be, safety has been a priority throughout the year.

Safety is achieved through a combination of habit and culture. Habits and routine practices can be very harmful—if they are bad behaviors. Having good safety habits makes compliance second nature. Even still, we must always be aware of the situation and anticipate the unexpected.

I am reminded of a Dale Carnegie quote, "Knowledge isn't power until it is applied." Every one of us has heard the call for safety and we have been given many great ideas to implement. Yet, towers are still injured or killed almost daily throughout the country.

Why are we not choosing to use the knowledge gained through reading this publication, attending the many great tow shows and classes from top-shelf instructors? Perhaps we have become too accepting of the danger we place ourselves in or have too much faith in our use of lights, signs and other personal protective equipment.

Or are we just too darn lazy to bother? I suspect that is rarely the case; most towers I know are very hard workers.

Maybe we feel too insignificant to make a difference. One person can change the world if they are motivated enough and have the right "why."

I am calling on all towers to make a conscience effort to better evaluate the situation before just jumping into action. I suggest using something called the "OODA Loop": observe, orientate, decide, act. It is a simple mental exercise where you apply a cycle to every action as you complete it. It is a natural thing we all do at some subconscious level that I am asking everyone to be more aware of.

It works like this: You observe a situation, say entering a parking lot at the grocery store. Next you take a moment to orientate yourself; in our example that would be finding the store entrance and where you want to park. Then you consciously decide what actions you need to take, accounting for all variables around you. Only then can you take action.

In our example you may have chosen to pull through a set of open spaces because that is safer and simpler than backing into a single open space.

We process millions of decisions a minute, many that we are completely unaware of and couldn't control even if we wanted to. Our mind can do this because of a combination of experience, conditioning and design. By deliberately applying thought to basic decisions for a period of time you can retrain your mind, making observation, and therefore safety, a reflexive action.

"Safety First" is not a slogan I am fond of. It must be "Safety Always!" Returning home to your family and friends at the end of every day must be at the core of every decision you make, on- or off-duty.

I attended a workshop with a few good friends recently, including the one and only D.J. Harrington, aka the Tow Doctor. The focus of this workshop was drilling down to the "why."

Why do any of us do what we do? Obviously, we need to make a living; but there is much more to it. My why, as with most of the others in the workshop, is that I know I make a difference—every day! So can you if you chose to act with deliberate consideration of safety or any other goal, you will make a difference.

The only question is if will you choose to make a positive difference and stand up for something?

I make a difference by helping towers stay safe, stay alive, thrive in business and thereby support and nurture our families. Yes, I specialize in compliance with the full understanding that compliance doesn't always equate to safety. However, safety is still at the center of my every thought, action and recommendation. Please, all I am asking of you is to pause for a moment and think about what you are about to do. It is very easy to get caught up in the "grind."

Here's to a safe, happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. As always stay safe out there.

Brian J Riker is a third generation towman and President of Fleet Compliance Solutions, LLC. He specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of Federal and State transportation regulatory compliance. With 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator Brian truly understands the unique needs and challenges faced by towing companies today. He can be reached at
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