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Learn, Apply, Practice, and Create a Habit

Safety habits can be either good or bad.  You have heard it said before about an individual, “They have poor safety habits,” or “They have good safety habits.”  When supervisors, team leads, or co-workers don’t say something to someone who is performing an unsafe act, the action goes unchecked. The offender, either consciously or unconsciously, considers the action as acceptable behavior and will repeat and habitualize the action.  And as others observe the poor performance being overlooked, they too can begin to develop a poor safety habit. Conversely, we can promote good safety habits by taking time to do some on the spot corrective coaching.

Habit, if not resisted, soon becomes necessity. ~ St. Augustine 

When a frontline leader observes a good safety habit, they may find it easy to smile and walk on by, but this is a good time to practice great leadership by reinforcing positive behavior.  It is likely that the person observed is not thinking, “I hope he stops and compliments me on my safety work practice.”  More likely they are thinking, “I hope I am doing this right so I don’t get in trouble.”  Most formal leaders (supervisors and team leads) are quicker to point out unsafe acts than they are to give kudos for appropriate safety actions.  Getting the kind of safe behavior across the organization requires both recognition of good performance and resetting of not-so-good performance.

When the approach to conducting a task is unsafe, provide coaching and then later follow-up with the individual to confirm they have changed behavior.  But every leader and even co-workers should not pass up the chance to compliment someone for a good habit.

Good habits are the result of learning.  We attend a technical or safety workshop and learn how to do a task safe and then leave the class.  At this point the behavior is not a habit but a learned behavior.  Once the person applies the learned behavior for the first time in their job the habit is set and will be repeated.  Hopefully the habit is a safe one.  If the habit is unsafe, coaching should be applied to make adjustments so that the person can properly apply and practice until it becomes a habit.

When it comes to results in the workplace everything falls on the shoulders of formal leadership.  The level of safety, quality, and production are the result of formal leadership in the workplace.  Leaders must learn, apply, practice, and create habits themselves that result in an environment of trust where workers can engage in good habits.

To become a leader with good habits one must be open to continued learning and coaching.  If you are a formal leader in your workplace what are you doing to confirm that you have good habits?  What are you doing to confirm that the individuals assigned to you and make up your span of control are practicing good safety habits?

I hope you will join me in the quest of creating workplaces where it is difficult to get hurt.  If you do, then we will be dedicated to preventing every workplace injury.  Although this is a lofty and somewhat impossible goal, it is worth our best effort, isn’t it?

In the past few weeks I have posted two videos that total about 20 minutes.  One is titled Complacency and can be used to educate both leaders and workers about this hazard.  The second is Span of Control and can help you your team understand how working to become an Elite Safety Team can result in a safer workplace.  In the following weeks I will be creating other short safety videos about: Accountability, Responsibility, and Trust.  If you choose to join me in this quest we can create a workplace where nobody gets hurt.

Safety videos available for download at:


Carl Potter is a straight-talking safety professional.  Through his keynote speeches, workshops, and seminars he helps leaders and workers improve their personal safety attitudes.  He has written and co-authored more than 10 books and thousands of articles.  Thousands of safety professionals around the world receive his safety blog here at

Carl is also the Founder of the Safety Institute.  You can learn about both by visiting:

To check Carl’s availability to work with your organization call and talk to Deb at: 800.259.6209

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