Mike Rowe is a national treasure. This week he appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight to talk about his experience with personal safety on the Dirty Jobs set. Carlson introduced Rowe and chided him that it was supposed to be “Safety First.” Rowe noted after a few seasons of Dirty Jobs, “Safety Third” was probably a better perspective.
“Safety Third” really began as a good-natured attempt on Dirty Jobs to inject a little personal responsibility back into the prevailing orthodoxy. Which is exactly as you have stated, “Safety First.” And “Safety First,” like so many well-intended ideas, was the notion that got a little ahead of itself.
So, why would you need to remind people they are responsible for their own safety? He correctly notes that during the Industrial Revolution and for several decades after, workplace safety was not a priority. Deaths and serious injuries in the workplace were not at all uncommon. Wages, working hours, and workplace safety were motivators for the labor movement that gained traction in the early 20th century.
The National Labor Relations Act was passed in 1935, establishing the workers’ right to organize. Workplace safety became subject to government oversight in 1970 with the passage of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which established OSHA under the Department of Labor.
Employers started placing safety at the center of the employment relationship and took full responsibility for keeping people safe. Changing processes, installing equipment, and requiring personal protective equipment are just a few ways they took “Safety First” to heart. Rowe saw the eventual result:
So, many companies spend so much time telling their employees that they care more about their own safety than they do, that something really interesting, I think, can happen.
For the crew of Dirty Jobs, the results were interesting and notable:
And the levels of complacency, paradoxically enough, that often when we are in compliance, completely in compliance, whether it’s wearing a seatbelt or a motorcycle helmet, or a mask, you can be in compliance and still not be out of danger.
Everybody on my crew, was safe for the first two seasons. Nobody got hurt and we sat through dozens of mandatory safety briefings. All we heard, was “Safety First.” By season 3 and 4, we were breaking fingers and toes and ribs. Everything went off the rails. We were all getting beat up. Fortunately, no one too tragically.
But what happened was, we simply bought into the idea that our safety was someone else’s responsibility. I started saying “Safety Third’ to me and my crew as a reminder that the minute you believe that, you’re in danger.
And the light bulb switched on. This is why I have an overwhelming urge to lick doorknobs just to defy Dr. Fauci and Joe Biden’s so-called COVID-19 plan. These people are not responsible for my safety. They are responsible for giving me the information I need to make good decisions for my family and me.
This seems to be the consensus on the right. Give us the information, and we can manage it from there, whether it’s operating our businesses or planning holiday celebrations. Really, we’ve got this and we can do it safely. If I become ill, the decision to use a tested and safe medication off-label is also between my doctor and me–not government bureaucrats.
Many on the left really seem to believe our leaders can keep them safe during the course of the pandemic, despite no real differences between states that are fully open and those severely locked down in terms of disease experience. The virus is spreading in both types of communities at similar rates, whether masks are mandatory or not, whether restaurants are open for in-person dining or not.
Unfortunately, these comparisons are rarely made in the media. The country also seems to have a fair number of citizens willing to comply with whatever ridiculous restrictions political leaders implement because they believe these mayors and governors act on science and expert advice with citizens’ best interests at heart.
At this point, I will assume I am not alone in my cynical belief that these politicians are making political calculations, not altruistic ones. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti does not want people to know that a COVID-19 overflow hospital is now a movie set. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just likes power. And who knows what Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is thinking.
That level of complacency by many is leading to problems just like it did for Rowe’s crew. Our children are failing in school at alarming rates, especially where schools remain closed. Mental health issues are on the rise, particularly among children, and domestic violence rates are also going up. We will not know the effects of deferred and skipped routine medical care for years. The economic devastation is also very real.
At the end of the interview, Rowe recommended reading a C.S. Lewis essay called “On Living in the Atomic Age.” It should be required reading for all Americans in the current moment. Insert COVID-19 for “atomic bomb”:
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
We should have some patience with the Karens. Their preoccupation with your mask-wearing habits and willingness to retreat to their homes when told to is a product of the fact that they really believe the government can keep them safe and alive and are willing to give them that responsibility. They also believe this is a novel event that is unique in human history. Of course, it isn’t.
The rest of us take an approach more like Lewis’ attitude toward the bomb:
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things–praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts–not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
Because, as Rowe notes succinctly at the end of his appearance, “Nobody is getting out of this [life] alive.”
WATCH: The full segment on Tucker Carlson Tonight with Mike Rowe