I recently wrote a piece about backing up your computer’s hard drive. At the end, I mentioned that if you don’t have the money to afford a backup mechanism you shouldn’t get the computer because the risk of data loss is too great. You’ll end up paying more than you paid for the computer to recover your data (if it’s even recoverable), so going without a backup doesn’t make sense. The same logic applies when it comes to safety products and equipment. Skipping the safety products can lead to much bigger financial pain than simply buying them up front. If you want something dangerous but can’t or won’t pay for the necessary equipment, you shouldn’t buy the item.
I know one guy who loves guns and power tools. Almost every weekend will find him pursuing one of these two hobbies. Yet for all that he loves these hobbies, he never uses safety protection. He never wears safety glasses or ear protection. He never wears a mask when working with chemicals. He doesn’t have a gun safe and he has small kids. When he’s working with the chain saw, he skips the steel-toed boots and he’s removed the guard on his table saw because “it gets in the way.” This guy scares the hell out of me. He’s one mistake away from disaster.
I asked him once why he doesn’t use safety products. I figured maybe it was a generational thing, or that he was ignorant of the risks. Nope. “It’s just an extra cost that I don’t need to pay,” he said. “I’m careful.” Well, careful or not, accidents happen. (Even if he doesn’t have an accident, the years of hearing damage will catch up with him eventually.)
My opinion is that if you can’t afford the proper safety equipment, you don’t need to buy the tool, gun, or other item. If you can’t afford the proper clothes, guards, or protection, you certainly can’t afford the financial trouble you’ll have if you have an accident. Even if you buy a house you need to pay for safety equipment. You need fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and maybe an alarm if your circumstances suggest it. As time goes on and you get older, you might need to install handrails or ramps to prevent falls. These things add to the cost of the house and if you can’t afford them, it’s time to think twice about buying a house.
Safety equipment isn’t there to annoy you. It’s there to protect you. If you get hurt or become disabled in some way due to an accident, it’s not just a physical problem. It’s a financial problem. If you don’t wear safety glasses and a splinter of wood gets in your eye, you’re going to have major medical expenses. If you don’t wear a harness while you’re up the tree and you fall, more major medical expenses (if you’re not dead). Don’t have a fire extinguisher? That little fire is going to burn your house down. The expenses you can incur if you skip the safety equipment can ruin your financial future.
And it’s not just your own bills you could be stuck with. What happens if you have no smoke detectors and your house burns down the night of your kid’s sleepover and three kids are killed? Big lawsuit. If you don’t have a gun safe and the neighbor’s kid comes over and accidentally shoots himself or someone else? Big lawsuit. You thought you were saving money by not buying the safety equipment? Think again.
Sure, you can take the gamble that you’re saving money by not buying eye protection, ear protection, fire safety equipment or other products designed to protect you and others. But it’s a risk. If you have an accident or cause someone else to have an accident, you’re going to be on the hook for thousands, if not millions of dollars. And if you think insurance will pick up the tab, think again. Many policies have language that either reduces or eliminates your coverage if the accident is your fault and you weren’t using the requisite safety equipment. So just go ahead and buy the necessary protection when you buy the product. You’ll be protecting your health as well as your money.
(Photo courtesy of Savannah River Site)