Is Health and Safety Just Common Sense?
This is one of the most frequent statements I hear: health and safety is just common sense. But is this true?
WorkSafe New Zealand put out a media release recently about a driver who was watering a track. He was travelling at low speed. He allowed two young boys, around 10 years old, to climb on and over the tanker truck as it was moving along. One of the boys fell off and was badly injured.
No doubt the driver thought the kids were just having an adventure, and how bad could it be if they fell off when he was driving slowly. Unfortunately, he, and the boy found out.
I admit that I have done things that, in hindsight, probably were not well thought through, as I am sure we all have. WorkSafe said that we need to look at all hazards and risks, not just the obvious ones. Research shows that people are aware of the biggest hazards but they are often injured by the small hazards they don’t even think about. For instance, electricity workers suffer from sprained ankles because of the uneven ground they are walking on, but seldom from electric shock. In fact, uneven ground is often not identified as a hazard, despite it being a major cause of injury.
Another example of a serious lack of common sense occurred on one of my client’s sites. The owner asked her contract cleaner to clean the rubber non-slip edging on her stairs. The cleaner presumably wanted them to shine so used silicone. This could have had serious consequences, but the cleaner didn’t think past the appearance of his work.
Common sense is based on a person’s life experiences and learnings. There may be a collective common sense within a business among the workers who are trained and experienced. However, not everyone has the same level of understanding. Not everyone will be aware of the potential consequences of their actions.
Stop, take the time to think about what you are doing, think about what could go wrong, think about the outcomes of your actions; often controlling a hazard will create another hazard. Think about other people and what they know, and what they probably don’t know. Health and safety isn’t about being the fun police. It’s about everyone going home at the end of the day.
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