IS SAFETY SENSE COMMON SENSE?

This month we have been asking Gary Huckins from Tees Safety Services whether Safety Sense is common sense? Please read on to see what he says.


Many people state that “safety sense is common sense”. I do not agree. This is why we have Health and Safety Regulations, Training and Professionals.

We are all born with some instinctive reflexes, which originally served as when we lived in as “cave men”. Thus, we respond to certain obvious dangers such as wild animals, fire, and even certain smells (for example, Hydrogen Sulphide) by the Adrenaline led “fight or flight” response.  For thousands of years, this served us well.

However, in the modern workplace these senses do not always work for hazards which we encounter. For instance, some hazards are not obvious to our senses, for example, Asbestos, Ionising Radiation, Vibration and also Hazardous Substances which we cannot see or smell (eg Carbon Monoxide).  Thus, we would rely on safety professionals to advise us on working safely with these things; most people, including members of the public would agree with this. These things are not, “common sense”.

The problem is that the public generally perceive that we take this too far eg that we “ban” ladders. It would seem to be common sense that people can work off a ladder; since the public never sees people falling off a ladder, this would therefore seem to be reasonable to them.

We safety professionals would argue that ladders are designed for access; and that they should only be used for short duration tasks when we have “3 points of contact”.

This is an example of how we can give advice on practical safety solutions, which see like common sense, but in fact are uncommon sense.


Gary Huckins Sept 2018

About Gary

Gary Huckins is a Chartered Member of IOSH, and holds a BSc and MSc in Chemistry. He has over 20 years experience as a SHE Manager, chiefly in the chemical industry & ten years experience teaching Health and Safety (IOSH and NEBOSH) courses. He has also worked as a SHE consultant for Sunderland University and currently runs a Safety Health and Environment consultancy, Tees Safety Services.  http://teessafetyservices.simplesite.com/ email teessafetyservices@gmail.com  
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