I would like to relate a personal experience that I had earlier this year; At the Roaster where I work as a Safety Coordinator, we have been having “Hazard Recognition” as our critical focus since the first of October and we will continue to have it as our critical focus until the end of this year.

The reason for us having “Hazard Recognition” as a critical focus began back in April of this year with an incident that resulted in an injury from a fall to a contractor during one of our extended repair down times. After the incident, the Roaster management team and the management team from the contracting group sat down to discuss how this incident could have occurred.

At the Roaster where I work we feel very strongly about our safety and the safety of our contract workers, as a matter of fact during these extend down times our management team will have safety line out meetings each morning and each evening during the down time to reinforce our commitment to safety.

During the course of the meeting that we had about the injury, the contract group felt that maybe the injured worker did not recognize that the task that he was performing could cause him any injury; even though the worker was working on scaffolding that was about nine feet off the ground and that had been clearly tagged that 100% fall protection was to be used.

I felt that “common sense” dictated that the injured worker should have been able to see that extra precautions should have been put into place and I said as much during that meeting. After the meeting my friend Scot, who works for our Safety and Health group, asked me why I had I been so animated about the reason that the contract group had given for the incident.

I said, “Scotty, common sense would have told me that I needed to wear fall protection and take extra precautions.”

He said, “Common sense, you feel that’s all he needed to avoid being hurt?”

I said “Yes.” Well, Scot, being not only my friend but also a great mentor to me, asked if he could present a PowerPoint that he had at our next monthly safety leaders meeting I told him sure.

At the next safety leaders meeting we had Scot present to us his PowerPoint which was about “common sense.” Well out of 25 people who were present we found out that maybe five out of the group shared the same “common sense.” To be honest I had an epiphany about what “common sense” really is; what I realized is that “common sense” is not common but unique to each individual because each of us has had personal experiences that have formed us into believing what “common sense” is.

What I have concluded with help from my friend Scot is that maybe “Hazard Recognition” is like “common sense” and we will only see something as a hazard if it has presented itself as hazard in our past or it is something that we have learned from personal experience to be a hazard.

I now believe that training people to help them understand what hazards are (i.e. Chemical, Biological, Physical, and Ergonomic) is the only way to ensure that we all share the same understanding as to what “Hazard Recognition” should be.

We should never assume that “Common sense” will keep our people safe because we have to remember the only thing “common” about “Common sense” is that it’s not so common.