Thursday, August 28, 2014

There Is No Such Thing As An Accident

My sister's youngest daughter was running through the living room and knocked over a margarita glass that was sitting on the floor, which shattered the glass.  My niece looked horrified for a moment, then shrugged and said, "accidents happen".

No they don't!

Accidents don't just happen and we have to get that concept out of our head.  It removes our personal responsibility to utter that phrase, when, in fact, someone is responsible and was negligent - otherwise the so-called "accident" would never have happened.

I tell my students this all the time and I receive blank stares, sometimes even stammers, "but ... but ...".

Let me repeat that: There is no such thing as an accident.

As a society, we have allowed the word "accident" to mean "unintentional". We need to remove "accident" and "accidental" from our vocabularies.

In my real life, I'm a medical instructor.  I teach fledgling youngsters how to become professionals in their field.  One of the classes I teach is phlebotomy, and that's where I hammer this concept home.  The textbooks are notorious for talking about "accidental needle sticks".  There is no such thing.  There are unintentional needle sticks, but there are never any accidental needle sticks.  In fact, every "accidental needle stick" I've ever seen has been a "negligent needle stick".

For example, let's say a phlebotomist is getting ready to draw blood and has the index finger of her non-sticking hand in front of the needle to stabilize the patient's arm.  Let's just say the patient is terrified of getting his blood drawn and flinches away right as the phlebotomist begins to stick.  Instead of the needle going into the patient where it belongs, it is now buried deep into the phlebotomist's own finger.

Was it intentional?

Nope.  Trust me, no phlebotomist on the planet wants to get stuck with a needle. But that doesn't make it an accident just because the phlebotomist didn't intend to stick herself.

Was that an accident?

Nope.  It was negligence, pure and simple.  The phlebotomist was negligent for putting a body part (the index finger) in front of the sharp, pointy object destined for the patient.

Another example:  Five years ago, my youngest son was hit by a car as he was skateboarding.  It was a bad collision that he was lucky to live through.

Did the driver of the car intend to hit him as he was crossing the street?  No.

Did my son intend to get hit by a car as he crossed the street? No.

Was it an accident? No.  It was negligence.

Both my son and the driver were negligent and that caused the collision.  The driver was negligent in that she was speeding in a residential area and not looking for kids in or near the street.  My son was negligent in assuming that he didn't have to look both ways and that a car would (or could) stop for him.  If either one of them had been paying attention, the collision would never have happened.

One more non-gun example: I was a wrangler for years.  I took out trail rides and was responsible for keeping my guests and horses safe at all times.  I took the responsibility very seriously, and to this day I believe that if there is a "wreck" or if a guest falls off, it is the wrangler's fault.  If the saddle slips to the side and the guest falls off, the wrangler was negligent in his or her duty of ensuring safe and properly adjusted tack.  If a horse starts kicking at the horse behind it, the wrangler was negligent: either he didn't watch the spacing between the horses and correct it; or he put the horses together who didn't get along; or he had a known kicker and didn't put the kicker at the back of the line where it couldn't kick anyone else.

Why am I going on and on about non-gun-related things?  Because as shooters and instructors, we are very well aware of the fact that there is no such thing as an "accidental discharge".  Ever.  There is either a "negligent discharge" or a malfunction, but never an accident.

However, we need to change the way we look at "accidents" in our daily lives as well.  We can't practice (and preach) that there is no such thing as an "accidental" discharge, if we don't take responsibility in the other aspects of our lives as well.  By accepting responsibility for the "accidents" in our lives, we can act on that responsibility and in the end, we will all be safer.

Remove the word accident from your vocabulary and you'll be amazed at how differently you begin to look at things.


Allenspark Lodge said...

As I was reading your post, I started laughing, and I think I had a negligent in my shorts.


Momma Fargo said...

Bwahhaha! I love this post. I love Bill's comment. I hate the word discharge. It sounds like a terrible female problem and those are accidental, no unintentional. Ok. I think I went too far. Some times my mind just goes woo.....

Home on the Range said...

Now of course I'm going to have that line "there are no accidents" from Kung Fu Panda (only watch if you are forced to by small people) all day.

But excellent points, almost every "accident" I've encountered has in it some root cause of carelessness.