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Is what you don’t know putting lives at risk?
Posted by David Cant on September 6, 2016

Is what you don’t know putting lives at risk?

Man with head in the sandHave you ever wondered why many less-able people seem overly confident in their own abilities? Even when the evidence is overwhelmingly against their belief? A pair of American psychologists named Dunning and Kruger decided to look into the phenomenon with some surprising results.

Not only did they discover that this was a real condition, but also that the least capable people were far more confident in their own abilities than genuine specialists. In what has become known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, those least able to make informed decisions are also most likely to believe that they can. Capable experts on the other hand are more likely to underestimate their skills.

Those who rate their own abilities most highly are typically the least able when put to the test.

A serious danger in the workplace

The Dunning-Kruger effect is not deliberate – the effect is simply the extension of positive conformational bias. This means that decisions made by less skilled people can have serious consequences, simply because they do not properly understand that their knowledge and experience is incomplete.

What they don’t know about what they don’t know is a major risk to themselves and anyone else nearby.

A bricklayer is an expert at building walls, but they are not usually as skilled when it comes to completing a health and safety risk assessment. But they may not even realise that this is a problem.

As you know, effective workplace risk assessments are not only a legal requirement, but they are also essential to keeping workers safe on site.

Don’t assume you know

Most health and safety provisions are basic common sense – identifying and mitigating the most obvious dangers to keep people safe. But unless your job is as a full time health and safety consultant, or you have completed some in-depth training, there’s always a chance that your risk assessments will be flawed.

Even if you are confident in the quality of your risk assessments, it is prudent to have them assessed by an expert to make sure that nothing has been missed. A health and safety audit is a great way to ensure your employees (and the public) are safe, and that your provisions are robust.

The cost of having an audit completed will be quickly repaid – by helping you to avoid prosecution and fines, damage to your company’s reputation, and helping you be sure that you have done everything possible to protect workers.

You should never, ever forget that if you believe that assessments you created are perfect, there’s a very good chance that you are affected by the Dunning-Kruger effect. And that is very bad news for you and your workers, because the outcomes could be devastating.

To learn more about training in creating affective health and safety risk assessments, or to arrange an audit of your current provisions, please contact us today


Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

You can find him across Social media - Twitter and Facebook also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Blog


  1. October 18, 2016 at 11:56 am

    Centurion Signs offer a range of health and safety signs on offer which would help to convey this information to everyone.

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