Imagine you're in a car, strapped into a cockpit so form-fitting you have to squeeze and squirm to enter. A collision sends your car hurtling towards a multi-section metal guardrail.
When your car hits the barrier at 137 miles per hour, several things happen at once. The front of the car pierces the barrier. The rear of the car, still hurtling forwards, snaps and splits in two. The nearly-full fuel cell instantly becomes a fireball.
Can you see it? Your car went into and through a waist-high guardrail. You experienced a mind-blowing 53 G impact and deceleration. You're surrounded by fire.
Yet, if you're Haas driver Romain Grosjean, you somehow manage to climb out of the car and escape from the fire in just 28 seconds. With no broken bones. No fractures. No loss of consciousness. "Just" second-degree burns to to the back of your hands. (While burns should never be a "just," watch this video and the word seems appropriate.)
In the 1950s, 15 Formula 1 drivers died in crashes. In the 1960s, 14 perished. In the 1970s, 12 died. Fire was often involved. In fact, some drivers chose not to wear seat belts; they preferred the idea of being thrown from the car to being trapped inside a car engulfed by flames.
Yet "only" four died in the 1980s, and two in the 1990s. Until Jules Bianchi's death in 2015 in Japan (Bianchi hit a recovery vehicle that was in the process of removing another wrecked car), no driver had died during a Formula 1 event since Ratzenberger and Senna on the same weekend at Imola. Even after crashes like this.
While drivers had always cared -- possibly none more so than Jackie Stewart -- the sport's organizers finally took responsibility for the safety of its participants.
Why did that matter? As former F.I.A. head Max Mosely says:
If you took all the Formula 1 drivers -- even the current crop of racing drivers -- and said, 'Here are two cars. This one is very safe. That one is extremely dangerous; you crash and you'll probably get killed. But the dangerous one is two seconds a lap quicker.
There would be no discussion about which one they'd drive. They'd all get in the dangerous one.
That's why the people running the sport have to take responsibility.
When I worked on a manufacturing shop floor, we were cavalier about many of the safety procedures the company tried to put in place. Lock out an electrical panel before working on equipment? Took too long. Wear safety goggles when doing some minor machining? Made it too hard to see. Wear earplugs to cut down on noise exposure? Not only were they uncomfortable, it was tougher to hear each other.
Safety was fine, but not at the expense of being a top performer
Looking back, I'm glad supervisors kept badgering me about earplugs; unlike some, my hearing is still great. I'm glad supervisors kept pushing for new and better machine guards and safety processes; unlike some, I still have -- and have full use of -- all my pieces and parts.
At the time, I hated it.
Today, I'm grateful.
The same is true (on a level that makes my example pale in comparison) for Grosjean. Safety procedures meant the medical car was on the scene within seconds of the impact. Dr. Ian Roberts was able to go straight to the fire, pause to help a fire marshal activate an extinguisher, and help Grosjean over the crumpled barrier.
More importantly, the driver's "survival cell" remained intact. The rollbar pushed back a section of steel and kept it from striking Grosjean. The halo, a recently added curved bar placed to protect the driver's head, appears to have cut through the barrier and protected his head from impact.
All are safety features mandated by the F1 organizers -- even though drivers, including Grosjean, were against safety improvements like the halo.
As Grosjean said from his hospital bed later that day, "I wasn't for the halo, some years ago... but I think it's the greatest thing we've done for Formula One and without it I wouldn't be able to speak to you today."
Safety is important, but racers want to race. That's why the people running the sport have to take responsibility for making it as safe as possible for the people who participate.
Safety is important, but top performers want to perform. (And, unfortunately, lazy people want to be lazy, which is also something I was occasionally guilty of.)
That's why the poeple running companies -- that's why you -- need to take responsibility for making your workplace as safe as possible for your employees.
They may dislike it in the moment, but someday they'll be grateful.
And even if they aren't, that's okay -- because you will still have done the right thing, for your employees and your business.
Which is all that matters.