Managing Safety Performance NewsFlash

Knowledge vs Fear

This month’s edition comes in the form of an opinion poll question:

When recognizing things that can hurt you, what matters more: knowledge or fear? 

At first blush, knowledge seems the obvious answer. Can you recognize what can hurt you if you don’t know what can hurt you?

Of course not!

But, if knowledge were the difference that makes the difference to recognizing and managing hazards, only the untrained and inexperienced people would be the ones hurt. In practice, many well-trained and experienced people are the ones getting hurt.

So, what’s the benefit of fear?

Fear can get you to pay attention, be careful, proceed with caution – and not make any assumptions, like “I know what I’m doing” and “That’ll never happen.”

Behaving with a healthy degree of fear is exactly opposite of what happens with complacency, which is best defined as “the absence of fear.”

Paul Balmert
April 2021

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