Shortcuts Never Lead Anywhere

By Thad Plumley

I read about workers dying on the job near my home twice in the last few months of 2018. Simply put, that’s two times too many and incredibly heartbreaking.

I didn’t know any of the people or companies involved, but in reading the news accounts both accidents seemed to have something in common: Workers taking shortcuts.

It’s easy to say from the comfort of my office, but shortcuts should never be taken. It’s important to ensure all workers know shortcuts are often a path to tragedy.

Among iconic basketball coach John Wooden’s most famous quotes is, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” And while it certainly applies to athletics, it’s perfect for the working world as well.

Do your job quickly. Be efficient then move to another task. Doing so regularly can equal maximized profits. However, never hurry as rushing often equates to work done poorly, not properly at all—or accidents.

The most recent accident near me involved an employee helping carry a heavy piece of equipment at his business and getting stuck between the equipment and a wall-like structure. When coworkers tried to dislodge the equipment and help the employee, the equipment fell on the worker, crushing him. Medics were called and arrived at the business quickly but pronounced the employee dead at the scene.

What a tragedy for all involved as well as their families.

But think about the accident. The company surely had a best suggested practice document for using such a significant piece of equipment. The path taken by the employees putting away the equipment could not have been in the instruction for proper storage.

Was their path taken because the day’s work list was long, and they thought they could save a little time taking a shortcut? Was other equipment in the proper path because people figured they would put those things away later?

The first accident involved improperly secured lumber falling on an employee and crushing him at a jobsite. You can’t help but wonder if the wire straps that broke away causing the lumber to spill onto the worker were checked—something that should be done every day. Perhaps checking was skipped to save a little time.

Both accidents happened in the morning. As I read about the second death and recalled the first, I kept coming back to that wondering if it was a coincidence.

It probably wasn’t. Being a little groggy in the morning or not having enough caffeine fuel pumping through the system can lead to shortcuts.

But no time saved is worth poorly done work, an accident, or worse yet, a tragedy. After all, to quote Wooden one final time:

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

Thad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at and on Twitter @WaterWellJournl.