The Dangers of Common Sense Language in Safety
It seems that Safety has little cognizance of the dangerous by-products of much of its silly language nor the trajectory such language sets by speaking non sense to people:
The language of ‘common sense’ is the last thing you should be spruiking in safety. It creates the idea that there is a common set of things that should be known or assumed to be known by everyone in safety. … if you don’t know it, I’ll ‘tell’ you.
No-one actually believes in common sense, neither does the Regulation or Legislation. This is why inductions are mandated, because there is no common sense. Inductions are a strategy to try and create ‘common knowledge’ but even then, this is not very successful as many inductions are so poorly done (https://safetyrisk.net/skills-in-presentations-toolbox-and-inductions/ ).
Anyone with a foggy clue about the nature of: Education, Learning, Motivation, Personality, Intellectual Development, Learning Intelligences, Human Diversity and Cognitive Intelligence would never speak the silly language of ‘common sense’ as a mystical attribute to anyone. The wise leader knows that nothing beats good old humble enquiry (https://www.bkconnection.com/static/Humble_Inquiry_EXCERPT.pdf ).
Wikepedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_sense) defines common sense as: Common sense is sound, practical judgment concerning everyday matters, or a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge in a manner that is shared by (i.e. common to) nearly all people.
If such a thing existed as ‘a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge in a manner that is shared by (i.e. common to) nearly all people’, you certainly would NOT go about telling people about it. One of the most dangerous things in safety is assumption. Running about assuming that others know what you know or should be known, then acting on it, is a recipe for disaster.
Unfortunately, Safety is really good at saying nonsense things to people and then later scratching heads when the trajectory set by language helps things go pear shaped. For example, if you say ‘safety is a choice you make’ what follows is the belief that any form of unsafety was chosen. So, if people are ‘choosing’ to be unsafe what must follow is brutalism. Intentional unsafety must be punished as outlined in the Act and Regulation.
If ‘all accidents are preventable’ than what follows is an understanding that a prevention to an accident wasn’t invoked but could have been. Again, any intent to be unsafe must be punished according to the Act and Regulation and again the outcome of such language is brutalism.
My experience with the language of ‘common sense’, is it is most used to cast judgment on others as lacking a form of knowledge that is assumed everyone has. You hear such expressions in the media and from management who say moronic things like: ‘common sense would tell you not to lift a transformer with a Franner like that’ (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-19/manslaughter-charges-crane-driver-university-canberra-hospital/9675188). Yes, but someone did and there are many reasons why accidents happen and often the courts find ‘no finding’. It’s only Safety thinks it is judge, jury and executioner.
Anyone who is worth their salt in incident investigations knows that tragic events are: complex, messy, wicked and never simple. Only Safety seems to run about the place spewing simplistic nonsense like ‘common sense’. Speaking the language of ‘common sense’ on site actually causes accidents because everyone is then led to believe that vital knowledge to be safe is known by everyone.
So, if you see Safety describing common sense ‘as a skill to be learned’ (https://commonsensei.com.au/ ), it is not about common sense. Common knowledge is NOT a ‘skill’ and we should never speak of it as such. Skills and knowledge are two distinctly different things. Moreso, speaking about common sense as some ‘mystical sacred skill’ to be acquired is even worse. If something needs ‘learning’ from a Master (sensei) about safety then by admission it is NOT common nor is it ever likely to be.
Nothing beats plain old straight up and down iCue Listening (https://safetyrisk.net/conversational-icue/ ).
Everyday safety (https://safetyrisk.net/everyday-safety/) doesn’t need gimmicks, nonsense language, meerkats, (https://safetyrisk.net/meerkat-mythology-in-safety/), paperwork techniques, cartoons, zeros or heroes to foster safety. Running around ‘telling’ people how to be safe doesn’t work and simply demonstrates that your inductions don’t work. Thinking about safety as some mystically acquired skill is crazy. Safety is not about ‘telling’ but listening, it’s not about heroes but presence, it’s not about any mystical message but about making messages meaningful (https://safetyrisk.net/the-medium-is-the-message/).
The more Safety throws bells and whistles (https://safetyrisk.net/bells-and-whistles-and-due-diligence/) at the problem of comprehension, the less relevant and effective it will be. Bells and whistles are always an admission that the basics are not working (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/it-works-a-new-approach-to-risk-and-safety/) and isn’t it about time Safety got back to the basics?
What a shame that the basics needed for the job of safety are not covered by the AIHS BoK or WHS Curriculum (https://safetyrisk.net/essential-preparation-for-a-safety-job/). What a shame that Safety has to throw to gimmicks and trinkets to try to be effective rather than focusing on NOT telling but rather developing the basic skills of listening, dialogue and conversation.