They Don't Know What They Don't Know

November 08 2015
By: Terry L. Mathis

A recent client told me they didn't need to improve their safety training because their perception survey indicated that workers scored the training as adequate. However, when I interviewed workers in focus groups, they had huge gaps in their knowledge of their own rules and procedures, couldn't tell me which tools and equipment were correct for specific tasks, and weren't aware what types of accidents were most common in their organization. This situation is alarmingly common and is an indictment of both off-the-shelf perception surveys and those who blindly rely on them.

Bottom line: you can't ask people to tell you what they don't know because they don't know it. You also can't rely on perception surveys alone without being able to follow up and get more details about the perceptions. It continually amazes me how organizations fail to get a profound knowledge of their own safety status before making important decisions about what to do next. A good assessment should be the starting point for any new strategic initiative. Even companies and organizations often don't know what they don't know.

Terry L. Mathis

Terry Mathis, Founder and retired CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.

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