SAFETY IS NOT COMMON SENSE – THE VACATION RENTAL INDUSTRY NEEDS TO BUILD A PROACTIVE SAFETY CULTURE

Nov 07, 2020

As Vacation Rental Managers and Owners, the safety of our guests, our employees, contractors, the community and the protection of our property are all things we deeply care about.  The key is being proactive in our approach to safety and loss prevention, rather than waiting for an incident or unfortunate situation to occur.  

We need to improve in these areas, but it is not always easy, as safety or fire prevention issues may not always be apparent, or even appealing to tackle.  Let’s start with a belief and basic risk management. 

You may have heard the expression, “Safety is Just Common Sense.”  Nothing can be further from the truth.  

Common sense is a basic ability to perceiveunderstand, and judge things, which is shared by “common to” nearly all people, and can be reasonably expected of nearly all people without any need for debate.1 

The problem is common sense isn’t, in fact, common. If it were, we would see far fewer safety incidents and injuries in the vacation rental industry, or any industry for that matter. Common sense is not something we are born with; it is actually something we learn throughout our lives. Suggesting safety and health should be common sense, implies it does not require much thought at all.

The idea if most people think something makes sense then it must be sound judgment has been disproven time and time again. The unfortunate reality is trusting common sense causes us to make poor, rather than, sound decisions or actions.  Even if we have the right level of knowledge, we do not always use our common sense. When it comes to the importance of safety, we need the right systems and procedures to protect us and others.

If common sense truly existed, then there would be no need for instruction or guidance. Just by following our common sense we would all know how to keep ourselves safe in any given situation. If we relied on common sense, we would could work it out by ourselves, depending on our own knowledge. How can we make a sound judgement about health and safety risks without specialized knowledge?   We can learn how. 

Safety is a combination of possessing both knowledge on a certain topic and taking the actions needed to eliminate a hazard, or reduce the likelihood of the hazards occurring, thus creating a safe outcome.  More specifically, all activities we perform, and all equipment used in our vacation rental properties have inherent hazards.  The knowledge we possess, or obtain, helps us to identify a potential hazard and then we take actions to eliminate the hazard, or mitigate the risks.  

As Vacation Rental Managers and Owners, we need to identify these potential hazards, so they can be eliminated, or potential risk(s) mitigated.  We have to initiate or make available the procedures or processes to protect our guests to help them stay safe and have a great vacation.  By doing this work up front, we reduce the likelihood of our guests, or our workers, needing to rely on common sense to not be injured, or create an unsafe condition.  

Here are examples and explanations of the hazard elimination or risk mitigation. 

Process or procedure provided for the guest(s) to reduce potential risk

Situation:  A mountain cabin has a gas or propane heater used to heat the home and the gas is also used for the stove.  

Hazard: Fire, explosion from heater, or buildup of carbon monoxide. 

Consequences: Fatalities, carbon monoxide poisoning, serious injuries or burns

Hazard Elimination:  Remove the heater.  Now the room or house will be cold and the stove will not work, so not practical. 

Risk Reduction:  Provide written instructions on the use or fueling of the heater, inspection and maintenance for the heater, and personal use and education for guests on the heater operations and fueling.  Provide a carbon monoxide detector on all levels of the cabin. 

As discussed, a hazard is present.  It is difficult to eliminate the hazard, so we must employ risk reduction actions and/or education to confirm our guest(s) understand how to properly use and fuel the heater and use the stove.  If any issues, call the Owner or Property Management Company for assistance. The carbon monoxide detector provides a safe guard if other risk mitigations fail.  Risk reduction activities do not eliminate the possibility of a life threatening injury, but the purpose is to reduce the likelihood of a serious incident from occurring.  

Since our industry, as well as homes, cabins and camps, have experienced various life threatening incidents associated with gas or propane heaters, it can be highlighted the use of these heaters is not common sense.  

Hazard Eliminated for the guest(s)

Situation:  The walkway to a beach house is uneven and no lighting available to illuminate the path to the front door. 

Hazard: Tripping hazard due to uneven walkway and no lighting. 

Consequences:  Potential for a serious injury, broken bone, sprain or fatality 

Hazard Elimination:  Repair the walkway to make it even without any tripping hazards.  Provide lighting to allow for adequate illumination while walking to the front door at night. 

Risk Reduction:  The tripping hazard due to uneven surfaces or poor lighting have essentially been eliminated.  The risk potential is fairly small, as mentioned earlier, there is potential risk in all activities.  

Eliminating a hazard is always the best choice when mitigating hazards.  By repairing the walk way and providing the lighting, we are removing the hazards.  We have greatly reduced the opportunity for someone tripping on the walkway due to the uneven surface or poor lighting.   

As Owners and Property Managers, our philosophy should be to address the existing hazards by removing them, where it is possible.  Critical, or Life Saving, safety issues always need to be addressed when discovered or reported.  

While we cannot teach common sense, we can teach safety and fire prevention techniques and principles. Common sense is really the culmination of knowledge gained through life experience and education. To improve workplace safety, it is our responsibility to provide the right education and create the right experiences for our guests or workers. The only way we can do is by implementing the necessary processes, procedures and training. After doing all this work, we need to verify our safeguards are in place and working. 

To achieve safety success in the Vacation Rental Industry, we need to help Owners and Property Managers gain safety and fire prevention knowledge and use this information to make sound decisions based on their training. And safety training is not enough either. We need to instill the importance of safety in our business culture, to keep it the front of our minds, so it becomes an instinct to be relied upon. While common sense cannot replace effective, simple safety practices, it can be used in conjunction. 

As Victor Hugo said, “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.”  The time has come for the Vacation Rental industry to become more proactive in Safety and Fire Prevention, and how we, as self-managing Owners or Professional Property Managers, are showing up to serve out guests, Owners and communities.  We can demonstrate the Vacation Rental industry can, and will, manage safety as part of our business.  

As Vacation Rental Managers and Owners, we need to be more proactive in managing the safety and loss prevention of our properties.  We can't afford to ignore these risks in our business any longer.  Interested in learning more?  Like my Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/safervacationrentals, or join my Facebook Group, Safer Vacation Rentals, https://www.facebook.com/groups/634849047163843, which is for Vacation Rental Managers & Owners. I will be sharing similar articles like this more frequently moving forward.

Until next time, create a safe day and stay safe.  

References: 1. Wikipedia Encyclopedia. 

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