No Common sense

Safety and environmental issues are a major consideration in every business. So why is it then that despite having training, policies and procedures accepted and in place within our industries now for decades, we still have very basic incidents that occur?

So what set me off on this topic? No matter what lengths and efforts companies go to, the end result comes down to the weakest link, which all too often has nothing to do with the business itself and everything to do with the individual. Found a large crate of rubbish had been tipped into a bin with large signs on the side saying “Scrap Metal” – made worse by the fact there is a very large rubbish bin only 15 meters away. This means that a bin that we get paid for the contents would at worst become something we have to pay to dispose of, a difference of thousands of dollars, plus environmentally adding to landfill instead of recycling.

But it gets worse. Time was spent looking for the culprits, which turns out to be two contractors working on our site. During the investigation, we also find out that these same people have been talked to by THREE different managers over the past week for speeding on site. Management for the contractor were contacted, and in fairness to them, they acted very swiftly and effectively.

The problem of course for all managers is that you can’t be watching and knowing what your people are up to all the time. But in the age of requiring a ticket or training for just about any activity, isn’t it time the focus came back to personal responsibility?

So why do we have issues like this? It comes back to Common Sense, more precisely the lack of it. Common Sense is “the ability to think and behave in a reasonable way and to make good decisions”.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “The problem with common sense is that it’s not so common.” Experts say we aren’t born with common sense, we develop it over time. And therein lies the problem: increasingly we are seeing a generation come through that have been cotton wooled from any “risk” taking, so therefore lack the ability to make sound judgements. There are no monkey bars at play grounds, and kids don’t climb trees. Many live in front of digital devices, some rarely venturing outside at all, let alone riding a bike around the neighbourhood (teaching them important life skills).

Where I become confused is how some people get through life without common sense? For example, there was a road upgrade nearby where there were two stop sign operators to ensure workers could safely drive in and out of the staff carpark onto a normal road. This lasted for 6 months, at great cost. 100m up the road were businesses and a bit further up a shopping centre both which had much less visibility, and much greater movement of vehicles in and out. So why is it expected that a business should think for employees carrying out what is a daily event (driving a car out of a driveway)? Why do we need so many signs on sites telling people obvious things like “look both ways”? It leads to people switching off and assuming that there is a magical system where “somebody else” will keep them safe.

Reading up on this topic, there are some pertinent thoughts on why people lack common sense:

  1. People lacking common sense believe anything they hear without question.
  2. They have trouble thinking critically.
  3. Their ideas are habitually illogical.

These explanations resonate well with common sense and explains why many supposedly educated persons are those lacking it. The ability to critically question what people hear (or increasing read online) seems absent, adding to what is an increasingly naïve society.

What are the tips for dealing with people who don’t have common sense?

Kids aren’t born knowing to put on oven mitts when taking a tray out of the oven, but they’ll probably only touch a hot stove once. Experts best tip to dealing with someone with no common sense is to show them how common sense is in their own interest. They may associate doing things the right way with being nagged as a kid; or annoying, confusing rules with no rhyme nor reason.

And finally, for those of us dealing with other people’s lack of common sense, perhaps the only consolation is that we’re not alone? As my kids say: take a chill pill. Mine is the occasional beer or glass of wine, to a sensible level of course.

Words from the wise

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense.” – Thomas A. Edison

“It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education than to have education without common sense” – Robert Green Ingersoll

Thought for the month

Would you sign a contract to build a new house:

  • Without plans
  • Without any costings
  • Plus an unknown ongoing maintenance cost
  • That doesn’t give you rights to that property.
  • And that someone else (whom you’ve never met) forever has a right to tell you their opinion about anything, that you must listen to and follow before doing anything.
  • That you can’t get out of for the rest of your (and your children’s) life

As always, Onwards and Upwards!

Fred Carlsson

General Manager

You may also be interested in