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Sometimes you just have to stop.

October 31, 2013

By: Wayne J. Harris – International Health and Safety Practitioner


How often do we see people walk by unsafe acts or conditions without saying a word? Well it might be more prevalent than you imagine.

People will always have different attitudes towards safety and how much risk they are willing to accept.  However at any point of time you might find yourself in a situation where you personally have to take direct intervention to stop an unsafe act taking place.

So what do you do, when you have to tell someone that you think they are working unsafely, or they are not following safety procedures for the job. Now this could be an employee or contractor, so regardless of whom the individual maybe you still have to intervene.

Here are my 4 tips to help you address unsafe acts and open up discussion with people:

1. Take immediate Stop action.

If the situation you’re presented with is putting someone in immediate danger, then you need to find a way to stop the job as quickly and safely as possible and talk about what you’ve seen.

2.  Take a positive approach

The best way to approach anyone is to be friendly and open. When opening up the discussion start with why you stopped them working. For example, “Hi, sorry about stopping you, I just wanted to have a chat about the job you’re doing because I’m worried that you might get injured”.  By taking a more personal interest approach the individual concerned will be less defensive and open to talk.

The incorrect approach would be “Hey you stop. What are you doing, that’s wrong you are going to cause an accident”. By taking this line you would instantly create a barrier between you and individual concerned.  This approach will definitely not make a person open to change.

3. Ask open questions

Everyone likes to feel they are appreciated, so ask the individual about their job and what they do.  By asking simple questions it will open up the individual and result in a more open and effective discussion. Plus it helps you find out more about the other person’s point of view and why they work a certain way.

4. Explain a way of working safely

Having opened up a dialogue this puts you in a position of control in steering the conversation around to solutions.  Where possible try to get the individual to work out their own ideas to make things safe.  One tip is try to avoid continuously using the word safety when you coming up with solutions.  It is a lot easier to get people to buy-in if you talk more about their job approach.

Final Note

I would like to end this article with a quote from a great British politician and campaigner “William Wilberforce” which I feel says it all.

You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.

William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce ISQEM

  Born August 24, 1759   Died July 29, 1833

William Wilberforce was a British MP, a committed Christian and a vanguard in the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. He campaigned all his life, despite opposition and ill-health and championed reform in many areas of society. He was founder of the Church Mission Society and what would later come to be known as the RSPCA.

  1. This is hard enough to do with an employee or contractor, but I imagine it must be even harder to do if the person in danger is a stranger. Also we have a lot of road construction going on. I have seen things I thought were dangerous, but going 50mph in the middle of traffic makes it impossible to stop. Thanks for the article.

  2. Wayne McCoy permalink

    Good article. Another saying, not too dissimilar to te one posted is:”You can dodge your responsibilities , but you cannot dodge the consequences of dodging your responsibilities.”

  3. Rick Lewis permalink

    Nice one Wayne, thanks for sharing, as always to the point. I like your closing quote from William Wilberforce, it really does make a point that we should all do our part.

    Looking forward to reading your next blog posting.

  4. Jaime Rene Serna permalink

    Every day we found a new way to deliver the message of how to work safe.
    But sadly the there are not enough ways to change the same people atitude.
    Thank you for this inspirational article.

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