Look at this picture closely and a pair of legs seems to have gone missing. Optical illusions like this really mess with our perception. How does a H&S manager deal with perceived risks?
Gustave Flaubert, the influential French novelist, argued there is no truth, there is only perception. Just look at Brexit and Trump, two perfect examples of how subjective and divisive human opinion can be.
These are extreme examples but the tension between perception and fact is very present in assessing risks in the Health & Safety arena. Often the challenge for a H&S manager is to take subjectivity out of the equation by giving people clear, consistent ways of managing risk. Checklist based assessments are a good way of doing this. In addition to speeding up an assessment, a checklist promotes the recording of fact over opinion and minimises the problem of deciphering unclear handwriting. In the case of an accident you need a clear, auditable record of what actually happened because people’s perception of an event can be surprisingly inaccurate, especially if they are under stress. Even if you think you’ve got a pretty good eye for detail, take this perception video test online – you might be surprised!