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And down goes a fan.

The score was 8 to 1 in the middle of the fifth, and the Pittsburgh Pirates were losing. Not exactly surprising considering the team’s performance in the last few weeks of the season, so the Pirate’s pitching performance allowed my attention to drift. Hoping for a rally on a beautiful night for a home baseball game by changing the scene, I elected to do my part by getting up for a beer at the concession stand.

Upon returning from the concession stand at the top of section 105, the bottom of the fifth had begun. Conditioned to wait for a break in the action, I watched the game from the top of the section's angle and sipped on my beer. Supporting my conditioned habit of waiting for a pause in the game, the usher casually held their sign. “As a courtesy, please return to your seat between batters or a stoppage in play. Thank you.” I witnessed the ineffectiveness of the sign at this specific moment and began looking for reasons.

As far as I remember, it was an obligation of a fan to wait for the right moment to transition to or from your seat. As common knowledge, one must understand how the game operates and respect the reasoning. This statement is an and statement and not an or statement. The expected habit up has a friendly reminder at a baseball game with the handheld sign of each usher. The usher’s signs are a reminder of the behavior expected to fortify the experience of others and for your protection. You never know when a rouge foul ball is en route to your head. You also don’t want someone blocking your view of the game by getting up on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded.

The amount of traffic witnessed overriding the intent of the usher’s sign was overwhelming. The data points I saw created the hypothesis that the common knowledge of the sign’s intent is nonexistent. Instead, I heard fans complain about logjams preventing them from transitioning to their seat.

Needing more data points to support my hypothesis, I approached the usher, started a conversation on the scenario, and began to explore his ability to manage what I considered inconsiderate actions of the fans. As we unraveled what he was allowed to do and not do to enforce the sign, I expanded my data points for two innings by hearing the comments of the fans as he casually held his sign up when there was action occurring on the field. I heard everything, from “What are these people waiting on?” To, “Excuse me, I want to get to my seat.” I even witnessed a lady explaining to what I assume were her grandchildren the exact reasons why you should wait. But what did she, a few others, and myself know that others didn’t? Where was the common knowledge of the sign’s intent?

Anyone can bypass or not respect a safety sign in a manufacturing environment. Anyone can open a safety gate and enter. Safety signs are simply reminders to the individual that they must uphold their end of the commitment to the team and respect the hazards. It is a layer of protection to disrupt the complacency and is a reminder that repercussions can result from circumventing the reminder. They are designed and hung in strategic positions to break complacency.

Next time you are walking around your manufacturing facility, take a moment to focus on the effectiveness of your safety signs. Are you and your team members following them? Are they in excess due to obsolescence, and have become background noise amongst the assets? Watching your teams and how they react to a sign's intent may indicate the level of common knowledge that exists.


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