Helping Out

communication safety toolbox talkHelping Out Safety Talk

When we see someone struggling with a task, the first thing we naturally want to do is jump in and help. Most times, this is perfectly fine, and there is no issue that comes with jumping in to help out. There are times, however, when it is better to let someone else intervene or to not intervene at all.

More Harm than Good

We all have heard the saying, “he did more harm than good.” It is often used when someone has good intentions of helping out but instead disrupts or messes up on a work task. Many tasks need the proper tools, training, knowledge, and skills to complete them safely and efficiently. If you happen to be a passerby and jump in to help someone, you may do more harm than good.

Two Real-Life Scenarios

1. An extreme, but unfortunately common example of this is confined space fatalities. Often an employee is spotted in a confined space, unconscious on the ground. The first instinct of the other workers is to enter the space to rescue the unconscious individual. This leads to multiple fatalities due to a lack of oxygen or the presence of another gas.

When you witness someone injured or unconscious, the first thing you need to do before helping them is to check the area to ensure you are in no danger. When someone is unconscious, there can be multiple reasons why he or she is unconscious which could also cause you harm as a rescuer. Alert the proper personnel before attempting to give aid to an injured individual.

2. An individual has little work to do, so he decides to help out at the next workstation. He has never been trained on the equipment, but figures he can handle the task. The task is to punch holes for screws in a computer board. After an hour of punching holes, another coworker realizes that every single hole he punched was to the wrong measurement.

This type of doing more harm than good occurs often. Many employees want to help out their other coworkers or look good in front of their supervisors, so they will go above and beyond their actual job responsibilities. Many tasks require specific knowledge and skills. Even if it is a task you are familiar with or have done in the past, it can change day to day. It is important to fully understand the work task as well as the associated risks before giving a hand to help out.


Take a second to think about whether or not you have everything necessary to perform a task safely and efficiently. Talk with your coworkers or supervisor prior to jumping in to give a hand to understand the scope of work and the hazards involved.

Discussion point:

-Does anyone have an example of a person doing more harm than good when trying to help out?

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