When Pretty Good Isn't Good Enough

Originally published by: EHS TodayOctober 6, 2011

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I would like to start by splitting apart those two words in the phrase “pretty good.” Bear with me:

Pretty: Pleasing or attractive in a graceful or delicate way. That’s a pretty sunset, dress or picture. For all you horticulture fans: that’s a pretty flower, tree or plant. For some bonus points: my girlfriend, fiancé or wife is a very pretty woman. And for the sports fans: that was a pretty pass, catch or run. Each description is positive.

Good: Being positive or desirable in nature; not bad or poor: a good experience; good news; a good day; good at his/her job. Again, each description is positive.

But put these two words together and they begin to take on a negative connotation. When I hear the phrase “pretty good,” I immediately start thinking something or someone is mediocre, so-so, tolerable or just OK. I guess if the movie was pretty good, you would feel like you didn’t quite waste your money, but could’ve spent it better. You’re also probably not waiting for the DVD release date.

What about, “Our safety program is pretty good,” or “My guys/girls are pretty good at following safety procedures”? If this description of workplace safety doesn’t raise a bright red flag to us as safety professionals, then we’re in trouble. We cannot settle for a mediocre, so-so level of safety on the job.

I find this to be a problem when contractors, managers, owners, supervisors, etc., are trying to stay on schedule and under budget. Unfortunately, in our present economy, budgets and schedules are a priority and safety may suffer or risk becoming a backburner issue. Some leaders in this economy seem to be content with a “pretty good” safety plan.

I like to dare my contractors to stand up loud and proud to announce to all employees that their safety and well-being is second to schedule and making money. Ask anyone who has been involved or witnessed a work-related accident/fatality and tell me what that does to your schedule and profit.

I’d encourage everyone to take a look in the old proverbial mirror and check your company’s safety program, training and execution on the jobsite. Make sure it’s not “pretty good.” Go for pretty great or phenomenal. Better yet, drop the whole pretty thing and leave that term to describe the (fill in the blank) prettier things in life.

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