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Do We Need Better Safety Rules?

“Keep safety simple” is my motto.  There is a feeling that safety rules make people safe, but it is the act of following the rules that reduces the risk of an event leading to injuries or death.  In more than 25 years as a consultant and previously 17 years of working in industry I can safely say that a rule being in the safety rulebook or standard operating procedure manual does not mean workers are safe.  This is the essence of behavior-based safety.

If you don’t do the best with what you have, you could never have done better with what you could have had ~ Rutherford

Since we’ve established that all safety is behavior, we must recognize that behavior involves a decision.  There are many reasons that people make the decision to not follow a safety rule at work, home, and play.  In my estimate it is more than likely a case of cognitive dissonance which is (from Wikipedia) thmental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefsideas, or values. The occurrence of cognitive dissonance is a consequence of a person performing an action that contradicts personal beliefs, ideals, and values; and also occurs when confronted with new information that contradicts said beliefs, ideals, and values.  So, what do we have to do to motivate ourselves and others to follow rules that keep us safe?

First and foremost, we must want to be thought of as a person who follows the rules.  If a person has the desire to be thought of as a rogue personality then all bets are off to what behavior you can expect.  For this reason the one element that must become a part of an organization’s safety environment is trust.

Keeping safety simple and rules to a minimum can help to develop a trusting environment.  When things get complex and resemble the IRS Tax Code where if you ask five-agents the same question you get five different answers, trust is not a usual bi-product.  A simple approach to safety means spending time on worksite analysis and job hazard analysis to identify ways to reduce the need for PPE, procedures, and rules through mitigation of the hazards.

Take a look around at your organization and ask yourself these questions;

  • Are we making it difficult to get hurt in our workplace?
  • Do we make following safety rules easy?
  • When someone is caught following the rules, is it because they have to or because they choose to?
  • How does our organization decide on safety rules?
  • Are our safety rules just coming from industry practices, or are we making a cognitive decision based on evaluation?

Creating a workplace where it is difficult to get hurt requires commitment and involvement at all levels and from cross-functional internal organizations.  Working together at all levels from the executive to the functional worker creates trust.  When people from different departments or crafts put their heads together to reach the common goal, success is attainable.

Remember the goal of safety needs to be to create a workplace where it is difficult to get hurt by developing an environment of trust where everyone can take personal responsibility for safety so that everyone can go home every day without injury.

Be Safe!

Carl Potter, CSP

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OH NO! Time to plan the year’s safety meetings.  Need a resource?  Check out the 1st Thursday Educational Resource produced by Carl Potter, CSP.  You’ll receive a short video topic and related article on the first Thursday of each month, just in time for your monthly safety meetings!  1st Thursday of February will be worth the $360.00 annual subscription.  The title: Professionalism and Safety: Are you a Top-Hand?  The printable write-up and video will make a great safety meeting for February so get your subscription today!  CLICK HERE

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