Born Ignorant

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” - Benjamin Franklin

Harsh as it may sound, this classic quote has real meaning and impact even in the 21st century, especially when it comes to workplace safety. After all, the safety culture in any environment is the direct result of people’s behavior.  Many will say that safety is common sense or that “We’ve been lucky,” or that someone was hurt because “It was an accident.” But these are just platitudes and excuses. The truth is that if an employee is hurt, it is almost always human error that caused the injury. It may not be the fault of the person who is hurt, but nearly all injuries result from people’s mistakes.

So what can we learn from Ben Franklin’s wisdom?  Consider these tips:

  • New employees are often inexperienced and require orientation training. Younger workers have a different view of risk than more seasoned veterans, so consider this when assigning duties or responsibility.  
  • Never assume an employee understands a process or procedure. Verify and supervise until satisfied that the training has been effective.
  • Dig deep when searching for incident causes. Find the root cause and implement changes to address what is discovered. Learn from the mistakes. Don’t let history repeat.
  • Employers may use rewards and incentives (even just a pat on the back) to help employees learn, or they may use discipline policies in order to hold people accountable.  Both should be in place to be successful. 
  • Set clear and measurable safety goals and give employees the knowledge and tools to reach those goals. 

So, please consider that all people make mistakes, and that as an employer or safety manager, it is your role to help your workers avoid errors that can lead to injuries. A safe workplace is essential to an organization’s success, and this can be achieved through consistent attention.  We may all be born ignorant, but we can become very smart and safe and effective workers if we put our minds (and processes) to it.

Baby duckling standing on a stack of money.