Carelessness? Who was careless? Was it the person who was injured, or was it you?
It has been said that an accident is almost always the result of carelessness. Certainly that word is used more often than any other to explain how or why an accident happened.
Let’s think about “carelessness” for a minute. What is “carelessness.”
We don’t need a dictionary to know that “carelessness” means not caring enough and acting as if something is unimportant. But the truth is that saying an accident is the result of “carelessness” says nothing about the real cause of an accident.
We often use the word “careless” to describe someone’s behavior when we really are just too lazy to be more descriptive.
For example, we may say that someone was just careless if he
- fails to follow instructions
- fails to follow safety rules
- fails to use safe work methods
- doesn’t pay attention to his job
- doesn’t wear personal protective equipment
- doesn’t think ahead and consider the consequences of his actions
- doesn’t use tools or equipment properly
- doesn’t use good “common sense”
In each case, however, the reason for these failures may go much deeper than would be implied by simply saying it was due to “carelessness.”
Failure to follow instructions and failure to follow safety rules could be the result of not truly understanding the instructions or the rules. Or, it could be because it was physically impossible to follow them. It could also be that the individual has a “problem” with authority and is lacking in the character quality of obedience.
Likewise, there may be several reasons for someone not using safe work methods. He or she may not know the proper methods, or may not understand them well enough. And, again, it could be that there is some reason the person can’t use the safe work methods. There may even be pressures that lead the person to deliberately not use safe methods – production pressures, for example.
What about when someone just doesn’t pay attention to what he or she is doing? It could be that they don’t pay adequate attention if they are distracted by something else going on around them, or if they are distracted by something going on in their life off the job. It may also be that the character quality of attentiveness needs to be further developed in them.
All of the failures listed above, and many more that we could list, can be analyzed in the same way.
The point is, “carelessness” is not an adequate explanation of why an accident has happened. Let’s not be so lazy as to use “carelessness” to identify the cause of an accident. To use “carelessness” in that way shows a great deal of carelessness on our part – carelessness used in the sense of not caring enough to dig in and find the real problem or problems.