Promote safety practice in the workplace
Around the world, nearly 2/3 of accidents at work are linked to behavioural problems (violation of procedures, failure to comply with safety rules, errors, etc.). It is therefore logical to think that changing these behaviours will reduce the number of accidents. But how can we recognise them? How can we transform them so that our professional sphere becomes safer? And how can we deal with those who, aware of the risks, still decide to adopt dangerous behaviour, whether against themselves or against others?
I. Discerning good and bad safety behaviour
In any company, it is not surprising to see that it is the people who naturally behave in an unsafe manner who are also the ones who are responsible, in fact, for most of the near accidents and safety-related events at work. For example, in the transport industry, 20% of drivers are responsible for almost 80% of all road accidents. This 80/20 rule applies to many industries for accidents and injuries.
But in order to prevent these bad actions, it is first necessary to identify the people who are likely to develop these dangerous behaviours. Here are the 3 main characteristics that determine good safety behaviour:
- Maintain control, do not let your emotions get the better of you when under stress
- Aware of the work environment and its dangers
- Applies safety rules
If your employee goes against any of these three points, then there is a potential for unsafe behaviour and the occupational risks that this can cause. It is important to know that risky behaviour is often linked to a high comfort level with risk, leaving room for recklessness and thrill-seeking in the workplace.
II. Changing the perception of risk
In order to change bad behaviour, it is important for all employees to change their perception of the risks they run by acting in a certain way. Many means can be used, including awareness raising, training, written or visual communication, etc.
Persuasive communication, on the other hand, is not necessarily as effective. Because it is less targeted, persuasive communication will not necessarily speak to all your employees. If you ask former smokers why they stopped smoking, there will be several possible answers; for their health / to set an example for their children / because of the price / too time-consuming… If you decide to communicate persuasively on one of these arguments, not all your colleagues will necessarily recognise themselves. Therefore, if you want to use this method, you have to think about all the possible arguments while keeping the message simple.
There are many opportunities to remind people of the safety rules (monthly meeting, individual annual interview, safety point, posters, etc.). Setting up “debates” within the company can also be particularly effective.
III. Changing behaviour
Making your employees aware of the risks involved is only the first step. Indeed, many people still behave dangerously in the workplace despite being aware of the risks. The proof is in the pudding: companies nowadays provide cigarette breaks for their employees. For example, 26% of doctors smoke even though they are aware of the risk, the dangers and the means to limit cigarette consumption.
This type of behaviour is easily explained because when a person becomes aware of a risk, his or her brain analyses it in two different stages:
- Is the risk justified? Am I concerned?
- Can I take the recommended actions? Do I have the capacity to do so?
It therefore becomes essential to modify or even change certain behaviours. To do this, there are two characteristics to take into account:
- To be able to change, you have to want to, you have to have a certain motivation.
- Resistance to change. For some people, change will take longer than for others.
Once all these elements have been taken into account, different strategies can help you to change the behaviour of your employees and thus install a certain “safety culture“.
- Training: raising awareness and informing employees.
- Sanctioning or rewarding: the principle of behaviourism (a behaviour disappears if it is not of interest or if it is punished and, conversely, it will be reinforced if it is encouraged).
- Engaging communication: this aims to get a person to change his or her behaviour on their own without using any authority.
- Acting on reason and emotions: acting on reason means showing concrete, rational things. On the other hand, acting on emotions means valuing positive emotions, such as pride, rather than negative ones such as fear.
- Nudges: Nudge theory is a behavioural science concept derived from industrial design practices that consists of influencing and inducing one or more individuals in an indirect way. A good example is to install a “survey ashtray” to encourage employees not to throw their cigarette butts on the ground.
- Peer observation: beforehand, a committee of employees analysing the most frequent accidents should be set up. After training, employees are observed by one of their colleagues on a voluntary basis. The latter will then give constructive feedback in order to highlight possible improvements.
Preventing so-called dangerous behaviour in the company is an area of great importance because it could well influence your entire company. As you can see, you have to go through several steps in order to install a “safety culture” in your company; to know how to recognise bad behaviour as well as good behaviour (and to value it), to change the vision of risks and finally to start changing behaviour. We have outlined the main steps here to enable you to have all the cards in your hand to take action! Need help to go further in prevention? Discover our EHS platform.
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