By Don Hayford
To borrow a line given to us by the motion picture industry, "I'm mad as hell, and not going to take it any more." You should be mad too, and you don't have to take it any more.
That was the opening line
of an article I wrote back in the ‘80’s for this magazine. And it
still holds true and I’m madder than ever! But you haven’t gotten
mad enough and you are still taking it! Why?
Our industry is not taking care of itself or each other. We continue to make the news by hurting ourselves and putting co-workers and the public in danger. As you read this some of our colleagues are recovering in hospitals from ENG van/power line accidents.
Many stations around the country have become the vanguard of operator and van safety with pro-active training and procedures. Many others have not, but are very re-active with training by the local utility company or ENG safety organizations when accidents within our industry are in the news. I understand that in one of the cities where a recent accident occurred the stations met to discuss why this continues to happen and talk of prevention. Perhaps they were “mad enough”. But I was told that not every station showed up. Why not? Perhaps they know it can’t happen to them (again).
Because I had covered the stories of construction equipment contacting overhead power lines, I knew it couldn’t happen to me, either. But it did. In October of 1985 I made the mistake of my life that could have cost me that life. Almost fifteen years later I am doing just fine, working at the same station, with two prosthetic legs and a disfigured backside. I don’t recommend it and I don’t want you to become a member of this club. I am very happy to be able to be here reprimanding you, but it is distressing that it is still called for.
There are good ENG related safety tapes available. Has your station shown any to you? Do they even exist at your station? Maybe each reader of this could ask around about these and make sure your station is thinking about it.
When you go out in the field take a look around you. Are there little safety stickers on your vans? Do you even see them anymore? If you do, do you stop and think about what they say, why they are there, and that it may be possible you should do your job differently? Do you pay attention to your colleagues working in the ENG vehicle next to you? How are they doing? Are they putting themselves and you in danger? Again I borrow from my article of years ago; Those of us who work in day to day, minute to minute news operations understand that news events have no schedules or pre-determined locations. And all too often we are going to an unknown location with not enough time to get there, let alone enough time to set-up the shot...But we get it on the air anyway. Also, I don't know of anyone I have ever worked with (in any industry) who can come to work and turn the rest of their life off. There are other things on your mind and going on around you. Maybe the traffic was horrible getting to the location, or perhaps the generator suddenly developed a problem. Maybe the cable-run into this location will be difficult. Or the possibility that something may have happened at home this morning before you left for work. Whatever it is, your attention needs to be on the job at hand.
And to Adrienne Alpert and Peter MacNaughton, it gets better. It gets OK. You already know or will soon know what “being tough” really means. You will know success beyond what you and any of your co-workers have ever known. And the rewards will soar above the awards.
Everyone, “Let’s be careful