You are strolling down a busy sidewalk. You hear tires screech, and you turn just in time to see a car hit a pedestrian and speed away. The victim is lying in the busy street, injured and bleeding, just yards away from you. What do you do? Do you spring into action and help the victim? Do you call for help? Perhaps you continue on your way and hope someone else helps the poor soul.
You may remember watching the news report of 78-year-old hit-and-run victim Angle Torres lying in the street while onlookers ignored him, and motorists swerved around him and continued on their way. It was a horrific scene that outraged many people and called the onlookers’ humanity into question. Would you have helped Mr. Torres? You may not have helped him because of a psychological phenomenon called “The Bystander Effect.”
According to wikipedia, “The bystander effect [...] is a psychological phenomenon in which someone is less likely to intervene in an emergency situation when other people are present …” Many examples of this phenomenon exist. Furthermore, a form of the bystander effect exists in our work environments. How many times have you noticed a physical hazard – a slippery spot on the floor, a cord across the walkway, an exposed hot surface, etc. – and walked right past it? How many times have you noticed a coworker doing something unsafe and said nothing? Are we destined to be passive observers? I think not!
Decide now to defy the bystander effect! Decide now to get involved! Decide now to be a hero!
- If you encounter an emergency, evaluate the situation for your own safety, and then intervene. Others will most likely follow your lead.
- If you are the victim, look directly into a bystander’s eyes and ask him or her for help. Tell him or her exactly what you need. Be direct and persistent. People really do want to help.
- If you encounter a physical hazard, stop what you are doing and render the situation safe. If the task is more than you can handle, place a barricade around the hazard and notify appropriate personnel.
- If you witness a coworker working unsafely, get involved. Help him or her do the task safely. Your coworker will appreciate your compassion and your help.
Most of us feel a strong compulsion to not get involved. Like it or not, we tend to be passive bystanders, waiting for someone else to intercede. I pledge to be that someone else. Will you make that pledge, too?