Over many years of working in health and safety it has become obvious that people can often be lazy and even stupid. We even tend to use this as an opening line in some of the training we deliver; mostly to make sure we get the attention needed to keep people safe & healthy.
The reason for believing people are inherently lazy is that we see far too many taking the easy way rather than considering what are the risks involved. Just think how many times have you lifted more than you should just because you didn’t want to make two journeys? At a recent manual handling training session we discussed this with a group that use knapsack sprayers in field work; these knapsacks when loaded tend to be heavy and staff often become physically tired as the day progressed putting strain on their backs.
Our question was what if you filled the sprayer up to half way, what would the implications be? The answer was we would have to walk back across the field more often and we won’t want to do that. The problem here is that the potential damage to their backs is not something they readily recognise.
The stupid comes from that we don’t just do things that might hurt us just the once, do we; often we see people repeat the mistake time and time again. We had one case where an engineer was working off of a ladder when his mobile phone rang; he stopped to answer it and then at the end of the call stepped down (from what he thought was the last rung) and fell around 4ft. He ended up badly hurting his back and having a couple of months off work. This couldn’t happen again could it? Well the answer was yes he had a similar incident 6 months later; luckily this time he came away embarrassed but uninjured.
So what’s the point of this? Well the point is that if you fail to recognise in your risk assessments these two facts then it’s highly likely that you will fail to put the necessary controls in place. Clearly as we have said before you don’t have a crystal ball to see into the future and some things will inevitably go wrong.
You can however help to minimise the risks through good training that makes your staff stop and think momentarily. The key is they do this before doing something that ends up in someone getting hurt; well delivered training really can make a difference.