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Let’s Be Honest About Safety

“The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes.  That’s the day we truly grow up.” – John C. Maxwell

In the world of safety, attitude still tops the list of “most important” with regard to preventing injuries.  Why?  A good safety attitude creates safe behavior, and because we really don’t like the whiners who make excuses for bad decisions that led to their personal injury or damage to equipment.  Honesty is still the best policy.

When someone who has been injured can be honest and say, “Hey, I made a mistake and should have…” it is much easier to forgive and learn from the experience.  But when the mistake is obvious to everyone, it is just an excuse.

Excuse Examples

In the examples below, perhaps you recognize some of the excuses, disguised as “reasons”.

Backed into a utility pole that has been in place since 1957

1. “It wasn’t my fault! Anyone could have backed into it, because that’s a stupid place to put a pole!”

Rope burns while holding a tagline on a load during a lift

2. “Wearing gloves is a dumb idea anyway.  I got rope burns because the load shifted.”

Burned eyes from electric arc welding

3. “My supervisor wanted the welding done this afternoon and I could’nt take the time to change to a darker lens for outside welding.”

Lost the tip of index finger

4. “How was I supposed to know that load was going to shift enough to cut my finger off.”

My all time favorite…

5. “This work is dangerous and the longer you do this work, the more likely you are going to get hurt or killed.”

The common element is lack of personal responsibility stemming from a poor attitude about safety.

Maybe it’s just me, but I would like to have heard – 

“I should have had a backer or been paying closer attention to my surrounding.”

“Bad decision on my part. Gloves would have prevented the burns.”

“I just got in a rush and should have taken the time to get the proper lens for conditions.”

“I should have had an alignment tool in my hand.”

“As a professional, I can mitigate the risk associated with each job by conducting a hazard risk analysis and taking appropriate action.  This resets the safety clock and puts the odds in my favor that I will not get hurt throughout my career.”


But let’s be fair and consider why people make excuses

Many times leadership can be a big part of the problem when they say, “We looking for ways to prevent injuries, so just be honest.”  The injured person is honest and leadership decides to make an example of them.  Sometimes leaders use some form of negative discipline to change behavior, and it works!  The next injured or employee who has a near miss learned to not be honest.  There is a better way.

Let’s be honest… When we are honest we expect a little grace.  Also, using positive discipline for the honesty should result in more honesty.  Thanking the individual for take responsibility and then asking them if they would be willing to help communicate the mistake in a way to other employees so that it doesn’t happen again will gain buy-in.  Employees and leaders must work together to create a positive safety culture where everyone can speak-up without fear of reprisal.

Taking responsibility for your personal safety and the people around you shows a positive attitude towards preventing injuries, damage to equipment, and property damage.  When polling employees and asking, “With what kind of co-worker do you like to work?”  the answer is always, “One who takes responsibility for their own actions.”

Taking responsibility is a topic we discuss during my Hazard Recognition and Control Workshop, both face-to-face and in my online on demand version.  Why?  Even the best safety management process employed in a workplace cannot be successful unless everyone is taking responsibility for safety and being honest.

Take time to discuss possible common excuses and how to recognize them.  Then discuss a positive way to take responsibility so that you can avoid having to use excuses by avoiding injury or damage. Do this and you will be one step closer to creating a workplace where nobody gets hurt.

If you would like to share some of your favorite excuses you can email them to me at:

Be Safe,

Carl Potter

For information about booking Carl to speak to your organization please email him at: or call 800.259.6209


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