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Think, Then Check Before You Act!

I tell audiences all the time that safety is a head game.  If you think you are safe because you believe your actions will reduce the risk, you will likely succeed.  Keep in mind that it is important to know how to “see the risk” so you will apply proper mitigation.  For this reason we all have to check your knowledge, assumptions, and facts. (if you want to impress your friends, family and co-workers, use this word:  metacognition – it is the awareness of what you know and what you don’t know.)

Sooner or later, those who win are those who think they can. ~ Richard Bach

Cognition is the acquisition of knowledge and understanding thought though, understanding and the senses.  Cognition or knowledge may come quickly as in “I smell gas.  There must be a leak” because of your senses or it may come slowly in the form of educational processes combined with experience.  Increasing your metacognition – or understanding what you know and don’t know – will help you target the areas of learning you need to help you and other remain safe at work.

Accepting that you don’t know everything there is to know about your job may be the first place to start.  This will improve the chances that your assumptions will be correct.  Before you go and get self-righteous bear in mind that we all have assumptions.   Our assumptions come not only from our knowledge but experience.  If you have gotten away with not following certain rules and you begin to learn more about areas that you aren’t fully trained in, you may find that your assumptions change and consequently so will your behavior.  You may be surprised to find yourself in a situation where you are able to apply new knowledge – and thereby avoid an injury to yourself or others.  Make it a practice to continually check your assumptions and verify facts.

Always check the facts.  Sometime what we believe are facts are really opinions.  Opinions are laced with plenty of values and beliefs that can lead us to “try something.”  I hear fellow pilots say, “We are going to go up and see what it’s like.”

“Did you check the conditions with the weather stations?”

“They’re not always right!”

“Yes, but they’re not always wrong.  If conditions are bad you might find out the hard way.”

In industrial safety we check the facts during our pre-job brief to confirm our assumptions are correct and that we have all the necessary facts.  I know of many deaths on worksites where investigators asked, “What was he or she thinking?”  It was obvious by the fatally-injured person’,s actions that they “thought” it was safe.  Safety really is a science of facts and measures that assumes on the side of mistakes, errors, and oversights.  We assume the worst case and apply mitigation tactics to reduce risk.  In most cases we plan for the worse by making sure our safety equipment will handle a higher level of hazards not the minimum.

Creating a workplace where it is difficult to get hurt requires us to take the time to get the facts, evaluate the hazards, and control them to the lowest level of risk.  Take the time to check your assumptions using all the safety tools you’re provided so that you can go home at the end of your day without personal injury.

Be Safe!

Carl Potter, CSP


February 1, 2018 is the next release date for the 1st Thursday Safety Educational Report and Video.  Don’t miss this issue: Professionalism: Are You a Top Hand?

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