My first job was nothing to brag over. I was a fifteen-year-old girl working in a factory filled with people three times my age. If I could describe it in one word, I would describe it as boring. With nothing to do and nothing to see (other than the hundreds of shelves filled with tiny plastic pieces), I spent most of my time thinking of reckless things that I could be doing with the material at reach.
Soon enough I became friends with the only other teenage worker, and we combined our imaginations. We had all these ridiculous ideas and amongst our thoughts, safety never sparked interest. Why would we ever talk about safety? We were fifteen-year-old girls, what possibly could go wrong?
After the first few days we had a mandatory safety orientation, which we obviously were dreading. We assumed there would be a long list of rules to follow and things that were forbidden, but surprisingly enough the meeting lasted ten minutes max. In the so called “safety orientation” we walked around the factory once while our supervisor talked to other workers and we giggled behind him. He then gave us each a tape gun, Exacto knife (crazy, right!?), and a big scoop for scooping up the plastic parts.
We were thrilled that the orientation didn’t cut very far into our brainstorming. We headed back to our stations, put in our headphones and began to work. I bought brand new sound-cancelling headphones for the job, so that I could really drown out the noisy factory. I remember my mom telling me before I started that headphones would not be allowed, she kept saying that I would have to be alert with all the machinery around, but I didn’t listen, which clearly wasn’t an issue as everyone seemed to be wearing them.
Most people wouldn’t be seen as needing intense safety training because they don’t deal with machines or forklifts, and although I didn’t have to operate any machines, I did have to work with them, and therefore I did need training. It only took me two weeks to realize that safety truly was important.
One day my co-worker stationed beside me had her headphones in, just like every other day, when an incident occurred. It was nothing serious, but it had potential to be much worse. We were facing our tables and away from the aisle where people and machines passed through often. A forklift started driving past us, thankfully I had seen it coming so I knew not to backup, but my friend wasn’t aware. The forklifts weren’t very loud. It got closer to us and I thought nothing of it. Then suddenly my friend stepped backwards and her heel got caught in the skid that the forklift was carrying. She then fell backwards onto the skid bottom first and was able to avoid hitting her head. She ended up being fine and laughed it off. At the time, the only part that upset us was the fact that we were no longer allowed to wear headphones.
Looking back at it, there were endless safety hazards that occurred throughout that summer. Safety goggles were “mandatory”, although only about 10 percent of the employees wore them, I sliced my fingers on an Exacto knife several times, I tripped over skids, I climbed up old rusty ladders, walked across shelves, and many other cringe-worthy situations. All of these incidents could have been avoided if I had known the proper safety precautions.
Now that I have had other jobs and been properly trained through videos, demonstrations, and knowledgeable supervisors, I would never allow myself to be that unprepared again. There were one too many dangerous encounters that happened in that factory, especially for the young workers who were unaware of all their surroundings. Safety needs to be taken seriously no matter what type of job you have. I regret not taking initiative to become more informed about safety at my first job, but it has taught me never to make the same mistake again.
-Contributed by Jenna