When Common Sense and Standardization Conflict

Every workplace has rules. Rules are often put into place to help standardize practices, keep employees safe, and to simply help keep order within the general workplace. However, what happens when standardized rules just don’t seem to align with common sense answers? Even though rules and standards are put into place for a reason, they are not always the only answer to each and every situation. Sometimes different situations call for different responses or the utilization of common sense.

Common Sense versus Standardization

Take these scenarios into consideration and be the judge of whether the standardized rules should be followed or simple common sense.

  • A worker in die-casting is on his way to a duty-free lunch break and notices that a forklift is leaking some sort of fluid as it is traveling through the warehouse. The employee understands that he does not work with forklifts and does not know much about them; however, he does know that it is not normal for a forklift to leak such fluid. Technically, the employee should not have to report the fluid leak as he is on a duty-free lunch break and on top of it he doesn’t even work with forklifts. Nonetheless, his common sense tells him to flag down the forklift operator to inform him or her of the fluid leak as the leak could lead to serious slips and falls and even damage the forklift itself.

Should common sense or standardization hold precedence in this situation?

  • A police officer is working an overnight shift and is instructed to patrol a specified area as per the police chief’s instructions. However, as he is patrolling the designated area he spots some suspicious activity going on a few blocks away. After a bit of observation the police officer continues to follow the individuals into another area. The officer has reason to believe that the individuals may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and may be trying to break into houses. The officer is now at a crossroads, should he call for back-up and intervene on the people who are engaging in suspicious activity or should he simply turn his back and instead follow the police chief’s strict instructions to patrol only a specific area?

Standardization would insist that the police officer follow the police chief’s initial instructions and continue to patrol only the specified area, while common sense would say to intervene on the suspicious activity which is happening out of the defined patrol area.

Standardized rules and practices should be considered as more of a guide. They should be followed as long as they seem applicable and prudent. For instance, if there is a rule about using appropriate PPE to enter an area, by all means do so. This safety rule is in place to provide protection against harm. However, just because specific rules and practices are in place does not mean that all common sense should just be thrown out the window. Common sense is a built in innate quality that usually supersedes all thoughts and actions. Common sense provides protection to people when they encounter uncertain circumstances and also helps people to act quickly when faced with emergency situations.

Don’t take common sense for granted as it is a powerful force to help provide protection and skills when necessary. However, the simple fact is that common sense and standardized rules can live harmoniously together. It does not have to be one way or the other, instead it is usually best follow the rules and use common sense as seen necessary.

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