Teaching behavior safety is just ‘common sense’
Thursday, November 05, 2015
Behavior safety is "common sense." To understand why, let's start by comparing computer hardware and software — another common-sense issue.
For a computer, hardware makes it an object. Sitting there, it gives an appearance of significance. It even scares some people by its appearance, and what we've been told it can do. Yet it has little value if it only occupies space on a desk. Without software, it's worthless.
Software is necessary to make the computer function. But teaching others to use this software appropriately is what makes a computer (hardware) the magnificent and impressive tool it is capable of being. The software, developed with human input, is essential. Once learned, humans can do wonders with the combination of hardware and software working together.
Therefore, it is common sense to train individuals to use appropriate software with appropriate hardware to increase efficiency and productivity. Do you agree? If so, then let's apply this "common sense" theory to safety programs and behavior safety.
Every company hiring a specified number of employees is required to have a safety program. Generally, the safety program consists of a number of rules and regulations. Safety policies and procedures are written and published in the safety program manual.
This is the hardware of the safety program. Regulatory bodies want to see this hardware when they come to visit. Companies are graded and sometimes fined based on the content of their hardware. Also, this hardware can be used against a company if it is not being used appropriately.
You may have a polished safety program (a great piece of hardware), but accidents, injuries and mishaps are still occurring. Investigators may even find violations and penalize the company. Why is this happening? Perhaps it's time to check the "software."
The software consists of company employees, augmented by training to help them become proficient in managing hardware. Most employees have been trained on the safety program's mechanics. Many can even recite parts of the safety manual, and most are sufficiently aware of the policies and procedures expected for tasks being performed.
But accidents, injuries and mishaps continue to occur. The gap between hardware and software training must be attributed to behavior application — an important aspect of software training. If employees are provided skill-based behavior safety training, they have skills to enhance their abilities to work safer. More importantly, behavior safety training is a personal issue, making responsibility and involvement an individual responsibility. It's no longer "just follow the rules," but "develop a desire to perform safely."
If behavior safety makes common sense, then why is it not a significant part of every safety program? Why have we not specifically trained individuals to appropriately apply behavior principles to safe work practices? Why isn't behavior safety training a major part of every company safety program?
Here is an often stated response: "Because behavior safety is just common sense."
Beating dead horses is not fun. It is sad to hear supervisors say, "We don't need behavior safety training. It's just another 'flavor of the month,' and we don't have time to be nursemaids. Our employees know what needs to be done. They just need to do it!"
Here's a question and response to this attitude regarding behavior safety. First, the question: "Have you ever been distracted, sometimes to the point of making silly mistakes? Or worse, have you acted out of anger in a situation, making the matter worse?" Very likely, you can't answer no to either of these questions. Both situations can be managed with a behavior safety skill: Asking a question.
A quality behavior safety program can teach self-coaching skills to help maintain positive thought and control for self management. Asking the question "What can I do right now?" raises awareness, and allows a person to manage to the best of his/her ability. It takes less than three seconds to ask this question, does not cost a cent and may prevent an accident, injury or death.
Is it worth it to teach others how to do this? It's time for common sense to prevail in the industrial world of safety. Behavior safety does make sense. It is the ingredient that completes a safety program, closing the gap between the hardware and software.
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