Make Safety Personal
My many years of hands on industry experience include wharf duties in Amsterdam Holland, logging and sawmill operations in Kramfors Sweden, sawmill worker and manufacturing shift worker in Australia, through to being the site Safety Officer for Mars Food in Wyong NSW for 10 years.
I understand safety from a worker AND management perspective.
Why does a fully trained and competent person engages in the taking of shortcuts and other unsafe behaviours? How can we drive down such unsafe behaviours?
We have all taken shortcuts at some point in time and we also knew it was the wrong thing to do. Yet we engaged in it anyway.
Perhaps one reason for this unsafe behaviour is that the perceived benefit of an unsafe act is higher than it’s perceived risk. The keyword here is perceived.
I was lucky enough to meet and attend a seminar about Risk Homeostasis by Gerald J.S.Wilde Ph.D, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. His book “Target Risk” is available from his website.
Please consider his quote below:
Could that mean that, as each individual perceives risks and benefits differently, any attempt to motivate a person to lower their level of risk taking may then have to be delivered at a deeply personal level.
Here are some thoughts:
So how do you make safety deeply personal? How do you rewire the brain so that the individual becomes motivated to lower his/her level of risk taking?
I was privileged to meet people like Charlie Morecraft (Remember Charlie) and Ken Woodward (Hindsight). Hearing their stories moved me – and the hundreds of people to whom I presented their programs – intensely. A very sharp decline in safety incidents was evident immediately after presenting their programs.
But what was the key for this apparent decline in unsafe behaviours? Was it their stories only, was it in the way their stories were presented to the crews, or was it a combination of multiple factors?
I think a key here is to plant the right seed in a person’s mind and then, the organisation needs to provide the right environment to allow the individual to nurture and develop that seed themselves.
So what is the right seed and what is the right environment? Yes, I have views on that from my own experience and…those views fly in the face of traditional training and assessment strategies.
As far as I am concerned, this safety psychology approach is still a very unexplored area in safety management. Yet, it’s potential is huge. This is right side of the brain stuff.
I will share my views and experiences, but, I would love to hear some of your views too.