Speak Up and Stay Safe — Your Question Could Save a Life

Acknowledging where you lack understanding is the key to filling in holes in your training

Speak Up and Stay Safe — Your Question Could Save a Life

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I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “There is no such thing as a stupid question, except the one that didn’t get asked.” 

Some people have trouble raising their hand and asking the question that’s important to them. Perhaps it’s the possible embarrassment of being the only one who doesn’t know the answer, or it could be that you missed an important point during a discussion and are afraid of looking like you weren’t paying attention. Sometimes other employees may show some frustrations when you ask questions and that can also discourage you from asking. Whatever the reason, we can sometimes talk ourselves out of asking a very important question that could very well be important to our safety.

In our industry many employees face different kinds of hazards on a daily basis — risks such as entering a confined space, operating heavy equipment, digging and working in trenches, handling chemicals and fall hazards. Part of mitigating those hazards is preplanning and implementing safeguards to protect us from those hazards. Sometimes though, things change, conditions around us change, a new piece of equipment is brought on site. If employees are afraid to ask questions, they could be putting themselves at risk of injury or even death.

When it comes to safety, it’s critical that you ask questions like what could go wrong, how can you prevent it from happening, how do you protect yourself and what do you do if something does go wrong. By being willing to ask these and other important questions you might be helping your coworkers who may have similar questions. 

Also, asking the right questions begins with the willingness to admit you aren’t trained in working certain types of equipment or projects. Sometimes our ego can get in the way of asking questions as we don’t want to be considered the weak link on a work crew. So, we just begin working, putting ourselves at risk. Don’t let this be you. Ask the questions you need to ask. 

Complacency can creep in when we do the same work tasks over and over again. Workers with experience can easily become complacent and not even recognize the hazards, or they feel like there is less risk because they’ve seen it before. These employees are less likely to ask the questions that can get hazards addressed. If the work environment discourages questions, that just adds to the hazard. 

Also, an employee’s lack of knowledge can be a danger too as they might not recognize the hazards that are present. This can come from a lack of training or the employee being too new to the task at hand. They probably will not ask the necessary questions because they simply don’t know what to ask.

Don’t let the responsibility of knowing all the answers fall to them. Encouraging questions can help employees stay safe on the job. The willingness to ask the necessary questions about tasks, risks, hazards and worst-case scenarios helps maintain a good safety culture while on the job. 

If you are a supervisor, encourage questions. This is just one simple step, but it can make a difference in improving the overall safety culture at your workplace. 


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