By: Aaron Wissen, CHST

The statement that knowledge is power is almost true.  It is those who have the most knowledge that are best able to develop strategies for success.  Those who understand themselves and others typically get along better with others, know how to learn and teach, and they understand ways to make networking with others easier.  And with knowledge of history, one gains insight, as well as hindsight. 

In general, seeing the big picture is always more beneficial and powerful than having a narrower view.  With the knowledge of past events, we gain insight to prepare for present and/or future situations.  Imagine what you would do if you knew what was going to happen, especially if you had the knowledge of how to prevent an injury from happening.

If you refer back to the past several years of OSHA’s Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Violations (, you will find that training requirements have been a top five several years running.   Even OSHA is pushing to get more knowledge into the employees’ minds.  If OSHA conducts a site inspection and finds any alleged violations, they often piggyback a training citation along with the exposure to the hazard.  Now, you have to defend two citations.  OSHA feels that if the employees had adequate knowledge of their work or the hazards associated with those tasks, they wouldn’t have been in a position to be exposed.  It is imperative that employers provide a thorough training to current and especially newly hired employees. 

Employee training should take the form of more than just a one or two-hour video.  Not all employees learn in the same way, so we can’t teach just one way.  Start in the training room with videos and presentations.  Then, carry that learning out into a controlled environment where you can expose your employees to real-life learning opportunities.  Let them set up safety devices.  Help them inspect tools and equipment.  Having these moments with your employees provides each employer the opportunity to provide instant feedback to each employee and reduces the chance to say “hindsight is 20/20.”  If you find yourself having to defend against a lack of training citation, do you think walking in with a training video will be sufficient?  It is possible, but doubtful.  In every OSHA informal conference that I’ve attended, we have had immense success having some of these citations reduced or even rescinded because we’ve been able to establish that we empower the employees with knowledge, both in training and on the jobsite.   

The breakdown that often occurs stems from the fact that many employees have adequate knowledge, but they are not applying what they know or what they’ve learned out in the field.  Knowledge gives us all perspective, an understanding and courage to do what we do with confidence.  Knowledge has even been considered a substitute for power.  Thus, it is often said that knowledge is power.  Let’s take it one step further and remember that if knowledge is power, then applied knowledge is powerful!

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