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Understanding the Importance of Asking “Why?”

Question mark with cartoon man figure

As kids, we were told to not ask “Why?” but to just do what we’re told. This is the complete opposite when it comes to safety on a job site – knowing why an accident, incident, or near miss occurred. Per the basics of project management, learning from failure – or preferably learning without failure – is a crucial component to building capability and competence.

What is the difference among accident, incident, and near miss? “Accident” is defined as an unplanned event that results in personal injury or property damage. We all do our best to avoid accidents at all costs. Unfortunately, accidents still occur on job sites. To prevent the same accidents or relatable accidents from occurring we must ask “Why?” Asking why can uncover problems that may have been easily missed and caused the accident. For example, was improper rigging used, was the rigging not inspected properly (or even at all), did the operator have a personal issue in his/her life which affected their concentration at work, etc. These are all probable catalysts to causing an accident.  

“Incident” is an unplanned event that does not result in personal injury but may result in property damage or is worthy of recording. While this category does not involve a catastrophic failure, it still involves a failure. Again, asking why is vital even with this type of scenario. There is nothing more important than having a safe workplace. Understanding what caused the incident to occur in the first place can only be solved by asking why did this incident occur.

Lastly, we have “near miss,” which is an event that does not result in an injury or damage. While no injuries or damages occurred, it is still important to ask why. As mentioned earlier it is understood that learning from our failures is very important but learning without failure is even better. With this situation, we did not technically have a failure but it should be treated as one. An individual should step back review it and ask themselves why did we have a near miss. Catastrophic failures can ruin companies no matter the size, so if we can learn from situations like these the better off we are.

Never be afraid to ask questions. There is no such thing as a dumb question, especially when the question is “Why?” If one is unsure of what is going on, the more likely a failure will occur. If someone asks a question, don’t ever tell them it’s a dumb one. Be happy to answer and explain whatever the question may be. Keep it safe.

Be sure to check out our YouTube channel for a wide variety of construction safety videos.

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