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Date PostedJune 27, 2014

White Card Update: How Common Sense can save your Life on the Construction Site

I recently asked an experienced construction worker with numerous decades in the industry what the secret to a long, incident free career in the industry was, and without hesitation he responded “common sense”. Experience is an excellent teacher but those who enter the construction industry and stay in it, prosper in it and do so without serious injury are those who mingle their safety training and education with common sense.

Unfortunately despite its name “common sense”, good sense doesn’t seem to be very “common” or if it is, it isn’t very commonly utilised and one of the reasons I think this is, is because of worker’s mentality that “it won’t happen to me” or “it will take too long”. Denial and rushing are 2 reasons why people often ignore their common sense and opt to take the more dangerous road to getting the job done.

Ultimately in my opinion exercising common sense begins with applying the rules, safety standards and strategies taught everyday on the construction site.

Workers in Denial

Workers, even those who have completed all the necessary safety training and are quite experienced in their field often have the attitude of “it won’t happen to me”. Ironically many workers seem to think that because of their experience or training that they are exempt from the risks associated with construction site hazards. Unfortunately it is precisely this type of attitude which leaves workers more at risk of injury than those who are cautious.

Caution on a work site can also be referred to as common sense. When you consider that construction sites are among the top 4 most dangerous work environments, workers who fail to exercise caution every minute of every day on the job are at some time or the other going to suffer injury or cause harm to a co-worker/s or even member/s of the public.

Workers should always remember that their actions have consequences not only for themselves but for others on site. On a construction site, work processes are taking place in very close proximity and are often linked to one another, meaning that the actions of one worker impact another or others. Consider for example the behaviour of a crane operator whose actions can result in multiple injuries, fatalities and property destruction without causing much harm to the him/herself.

Workers who are in denial that they are just as much at risk as everyone else on site ultimately aren’t practicing good common sense and sooner or later they or someone else on site will pay the price.

Rushing to Promote Productivity

We cannot deny that we live in a fast paced world where speed is valued over almost everything else including quality but when it comes to safety speed can be detrimental.

Many workers and supervisors in particular in construction it seems are more concerned with getting the job done on budget and within the timeframe, that they do so at the expense of proper safety procedures.

Very often workers will undertake a dangerous task without the necessary precautions because it is just quicker to do so that way. For example consider the number of workers who suffer falls from heights on construction sites. These falls are mostly preventable with proper fall protection but these precautions are ignored because they are perceived to be a waste of time. Many workers think that the time it takes to set up fall protection is time better spent completing the project – these workers are foolishly putting their own lives at risk for the sake of productivity. This is not practicing common sense.

Importance of Training

Ultimately workers can’t be accused of not practicing common sense if they are ignorant of the hazards and proper control measures necessary for work on a construction site. If workers aren’t aware of what is required of them in terms of safety, how can they be expected to conduct themselves “safely”?

This is why safety training is so important because it teaches workers about the dangers of construction work and what is expected of them in terms of safe conduct on a construction site. It also teaches workers their rights and what the employer’s responsibility is to them in terms of safety. In this way workers understand that they have a right to a safe work environment and safe system of work, meaning that they are less likely to be victimised and have their rights abused by supervisors and employers whose primary objective is productivity rather than the safety of employees.

This training for workers begins with The White Card course.

Peter Cutforth is a Director at Urban E-Learning, a global elearning and web strategy firm based in George St Brisbane. Peter's interests extend to training, safety and compliance, online marketing, and Mobile Apps.

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