Safety Articles

Lies, Half-Truths, and Misconceptions: Challenges Safety Leaders Face

Have you ever heard people in your workplace make statements about safety that just don’t ring true? Often these are not lies or half-truths; they are simple misunderstandings rooted in unsubstantiated beliefs.

Safety leaders must be able to face misconceptions that may thwart the progress of achieving a zero-injury workplace. The common misconceptions are worthy of a reality check. Here are three misconceptions that the safety professional on any coating jobsite should be aware of.

1. You cannot create a hazard-free workplace.

The reality is that hazards can be identified and controlled. Discipline and dedication are required to recognize and mitigate every hazard. Hazard recognition and control requires learning to be situationally aware of hazards and understanding the sources of hazards, such as energy, environment, equipment, and employees. For instance, coatings applicators who are untrained in their jobs and are unwilling to behave safely are a problem. Fixing the problem requires diligence. Beyond that, a willingness to take action to mitigate hazards must exist among all employees.

2. Being safe takes too much time and money.

The reality is that the safety cost/benefit should include the cost of human suffering. Of course, no company or organization has an unlimited supply of time or money. However, the cost of pain and agony that an injury causes the person, team, and company should be enough to make anyone do everything they can to stay safe with the available resources. When making a decision about safety expenditures, stop and consider the direct and indirect costs of even a minor injury. Add it up — lost time of the injured employee, lost time required by others to attend to the injured and fill in for him or her, and medical costs alone can be thousands of dollars for a “simple” injury. A trip down a ladder isn’t just a broken wrist. Imagine the paperwork required, too!

3. Accidents just happen.

The reality is that you have great control over the circumstances around you. Having a fatalistic view of the world takes away personal power. The reality is that each individual has a great deal of power and control over circumstances and situations around him or her. Workers and leaders must understand the importance of knowing how to prevent personal injuries. When conducting a job briefing, risk can be reduced by taking time to identify any hazards, such as the need for coveralls during abrasive blasting, then mitigating and controlling those hazards. When crew members believe they have no control, they will likely miss a hazard and, in turn, miss preparing themselves to prevent every injury. Engagement in the hazard recognition and control process is the key to injury prevention.

Safety Leadership Requires Action

A leader is one who knows how to rally the people behind a cause and is willing to walk the walk. Employees want a leader who will challenge them to continually be better at working safe — a leader who says, “I don’t want you to get hurt doing the job, and I am willing to work with you to make sure that happens.”

Creating a workplace that targets zero injuries is not a gimmick or a new safety program; rather, the workplace becomes one where everyone cares enough to engage in the safety process. To create such a workplace, organizations need leaders at all levels. Consider the actions you will take to engage and challenge the people you work with. Start today to make your workplace one where it’s difficult to get hurt.

About the Author:

Carl Potter is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) who presents his motivational safety message to audiences across the United States. In addition, he is the author of more than a dozen safety books, the founder of the Safety Institute, and an aircraft commander and safety officer for the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. Potter is considered an expert in training personnel in hazard recognition and control processes. For more information, contact: Carl Potter,,

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