At the place I have worked for over the last two years, we have an electric sign that states how many days its been since someone got so hurt it actually slowed production. I am sure there is a proper name for this type of signage, but I refer to it as “The Pizza Counter.” Rumor has it if the aluminum die casting plant ever makes it 100 days without a “time loss incident” the owners will buy us pizza.
In two years, not once has it broken 100.
We got close. Counter made it to 98. This turned out to be a mistake; it was supposed to have been reset three weeks earlier when a production employee crushed his hands between a die. Suddenly the counter went from 98 to 22.
I should stress that this signage isn’t counting every time someone hurts themselves, but only the times someone is so hurt they are unable to work (and usually needs to go to the hospital.) People who cut themselves or bruise themselves who wait until after their shift is over to report to the ER don’t affect the counter.
Which means that someone has reported to the hospital here on average once every 2 to 3 months!
It’s easy to dismiss it, like I sometimes do, sardonicly stating “people aren’t really getting hurt that much; the bosses are just resetting it because they don’t want to buy pizza.” In actuality I would argue it’s a combination of turnover (leading to newer employees that are more prone to make mistakes) and exhaustion (until very recently we were working 12 hour days, 6 days a week.) There is also something to be said about individuals not using the proper protective equipment (PPE) but this often only protects from minor to moderate injuries and not the sort of incidents that cause trips to the hospital.
In a strange way, this counter has also become a strange symbol in my life, a Tower Arcana reminding me of just how unlikely it will be that I will ever get my own “100 day pizza party.” It seems every time I am starting to get a grasp on things something disastrous happens and I have to reset that counter. Like Sisyphus (and not syphilis!) I attempt to roll that boulder up the hill, constantly exhausting myself and my resources, only to lose my grip and need to start over. It is a never ending cycle of taking things “one day at a time” even as I clearly need to be grabbing two or three just to catch up.
I am not sure how my place of employment can encourage people to be more safe, more cautious, and more productive. Worse, I am not sure how I can do the same for myself. I am far from being at my worst; instead it’s just the same dark hole with the same dark dread just with no way of resetting things.
The counter is going to reset. The boulder is going to roll to the bottom again. The only difference is, when it ends for me, it may be a very real and very final end.