Z Man

Z Man

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down, the song goes. But for me, dark dank days generally bode well for a workout. So I grabbed my iPod and headed to the gym in the basement of the condo. I stretched, flexed, jumped on the recumbent bike, and hit quick start.


Nothing. No blinking lights, no pedal action. Nothing. Hmmm. Was I plugged in? Glancing down, I noticed that sure enough, the power cord was not attached to the floor outlet. No problem. I jumped off the bike to rectify the situation, and then jerked in horror.


One of the prongs from the power cord had broken off and was lodged in the outlet.


Without warning it happened. I turned into ANSI Z535 Man!





My mission—prevent a hazardous situation.


“This is dangerous!” I nearly shouted, though there was no one else in the gym. Shunning the elevator, I ran up the stairs to the management office. This was turning out to be a workout, indeed. “Where is Point Five when you need it?” I asked aloud, referring, of course, to ANSI Z535.5 Safety Tags and Barricade Tapes (for Temporary Hazards).


But there was no one in the management office to heed my plea, no one who might have even paper and pen. So I ran up to the third floor and flew through the door of my unit. My husband stared as I ranted about live outlets, deadly situations, and brightly colored tape. “Where’s Safety Red when you need it?” He knew better than to offer a choice rejoinder or even query my frantic behavior. He has seen many sides of me, but not this one. I was possessed.


“There’s an electrical prong stuck in an outlet,” I blurted in an attempt to halt his gawk. “Here,” I produced blue painters’ tape, holding it aloft like a prize. “This is close enough to Safety Blue!” Then I rummaged for a bold felt pen.


“Danger!” I printed in block letters, adding an exclamation point circumscribed with a triangle. Then I dashed back down to the gym to label the hazard. Ultimately, I found a security guard, who called an electrician. A few days later the bike was outfitted with a new plug and a more secure outlet. It seems someone had tripped on the cord. Yet another dangerous situation.


It was only in retrospect that I realized I had internalized the ANSI Z535 visual alerting system that identifies potential hazards. I’ve gotten to where I look for and appreciate finding the character I’ve affectionately come to call Z Man. You know him, too. He’s often slipping on wet floors, falling off ladders, and getting his fingers stuck in gears.


June is National Safety Month. Sponsored by the National Safety Council, it’s a perfect time to learn or review critical skills that could make the difference between safety and danger, life and death. NSC offers tools and materials that can make a difference at home, at play, or in the workplace.


It’s also a good time to look around for Z Man. His job is to take the fall so that you don’t have to.

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