Of common sense and being careful

In June 2023, Health and Safety1 MinutesBy Tracey MurphyJuly 16, 2023

Safewise is turning 15 this year! The approach to safety remains the same.

I have spent almost 15 years discussing common sense and its close relative – being careful. My regular clients talk about these with a glint in their eye – waiting for me to react. Other people still talk about common sense and being careful as valid health and safety approaches.

Common sense depends on our life experiences. Put a 15-year-old farm kid in the same space as a 15-year-old city kid and see what happens. Put a 16-year-old in the same workplace as experienced adults and see what happens.

When we rely on people doing what they think is best to protect themselves and others, we play Russian roulette with people’s lives.

Educate workers on how you want tasks done and how you don’t. Then you can talk about common knowledge.

‘Be careful’ is a lovely fluffy instruction. It sounds great, caring and kind. But it doesn’t provide actions. Educate workers as above and give them best-practice rules to follow – wear safety glasses, park in that spot, don’t lift the guard…

The other day I was told, not for the first time, that “the hazard has been eliminated because the accident-prone person has left”. ‘Accident-prone’ might be the new addition to my common- sense-and-be-careful list of manager/ employer-abdication-of-responsibility terms.