A plane flying through the sky
21 Jan 2019

‘Common sense’ isn’t that common!

Lee Thompson Construction Regional Health & Safety Facilitator

I always remember being 10,000 feet in the air sipping on a gin and juice, looking forward to touching down in Mexico to enjoy a well-earned rest, when the individual sat next to me buzzed for the flight attendant. What followed next was probably the most worrying thing I have ever heard on a flight.

The flight attendant made her way up the aisle to the individual who was sat next to me, now waving her hand in the air. The individual next to me then asked the flight attendant if she could open the window to let some air in because it was warm, a window at 10,000 feet cruising at 550MPH! For a second I thought she was joking, but the look on her face and the flight attendant’s face clearly expressed she wasn’t, especially when the flight attendant said she couldn’t and was asked why. Now to me and you it’s common sense not to open a plane window at that height and speed, but to someone who has never flown before?

Another conversation that stands out in my head is the day a group of us were attending the dogs (greyhound racing). A member of the group had never been to the dogs before and asked why it was on later at night when the toddlers should be in bed.

“Toddlers?” we asked.

Now the next few sentences that came out of that individual’s mouth had me in tears.

“Yes the toddlers, you know the riders?”


“Yes the toddlers that ride the dogs round the course, like jockeys ride horses.”

Now to me and you it’s common sense that the greyhounds don’t have any riders on them, they chase the mechanical hare round the track, but to someone who hasn’t seen or been to the dogs?

I remember when a friend of mine had just passed his driving test and we were driving out to Blyton for an ice cream when two stallions and their riders were in the middle of the road. Without warning my friend beeped his horn to let them know he was there. Now to me and you it’s common sense not to beep your horn behind horses in case they panic and bolt, but to someone who has just passed their test and not experienced horses on the road?   

I remember a friend ringing to tell me that a water pipe that fed the bathroom sink had come loose and water was spraying all over the bathroom. Automatically you would use your common sense and turn the valve off, or switch the water feed to the house off right? That’s what common sense tells you right? Well this friend didn’t have a clue what any of them were and by the time I got there, the house was like a miniature Niagara Falls!  

Now you could say from reading the above that the individuals involved were a picnic short of a sandwich, however these individuals have Master Degrees and you would assume they had the ‘common sense’ to know better and do the right thing, right?

Well what is ‘common sense?’

Common sense is not a 6th sense that we’re born with, it’s something that is installed in us through life experiences and taught information. In fact the English dictionary defines common sense as - “sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence.” Hopefully from reading the above you can see how something that is ‘common sense’ to someone, is not ‘common sense’ to another.

The words ‘common sense’ seem to be a common phrase used by individuals who have received training lately and I just wanted to highlight we must not rely on an individual’s ‘common sense’. We need to ensure that all individuals are given the correct information, instruction, training and supervision (IITS) to carry out their duties. All individuals have different life experiences, which have taught them different things. So next time you hear someone say it’s ‘common sense,’ just remember it might not be for that person.

Why don’t you take a minute to think of things you’ve witness that might be classed as ‘common sense’ and comment below. This will highlight that ‘common sense’ isn’t that common and shouldn’t be relied upon.


Any views expressed in this blog are views of the individuals concerned and do not necessarily reflect the views of British Steel.

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