The day after I graduated high school I started work at the same glass bottle factory where most of my family worked. I worked on the "assembly" line at the end of a conveyor system. My job was to take the cases of bottles off the conveyor, stack them on a pallet and shrink wrap them for the forklift operator to pick up and deliver to the shipping department. The bottles still radiated heat from the melting process which made it a hot work environment even in the winter. There was a lot of bending, lifting, twisting, reaching and of course broken glass.

As with most factories there were personal protective equipment requirements. In my case, safety glasses with side shields, hearing protection and steel toed boots were required. That's where the problem began. The safety glasses were uncomfortable and ill-fitted, and because it was hot inside the factory the glasses slid down my nose from the perspiration. So, I did what any "newbie" would do and learned a lesson from the senior workers. I held the glasses between my teeth and when I saw the supervisor I put them on really quick. That worked fine until the supervisor walked up behind me and caught me one day. His words still ring in my mind, "IF I GOTTA WEAR THESE THINGS, YOU GOT TO TOO. SO PUT'EM ON AND DON't LET ME CATCH YOU AGAIN WITHOUT THEM!"

The Issue

I wasn't buying safety, I was being "sold" safety and no one likes being "sold". The supervisor didn't ask me why I wasn't wearing my safety glasses and I didn't offer. I was a new employee and dutifully complied, but it left a really bad taste in my mouth. Safety is often thought of as a negative because we associate it with enforcement and disciplinary action, and I was not an exception.

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