Behave Yourself

We all do it at some time. We take a short cut, we take a risk or we do something that we know we shouldn’t be doing. People very often behave in an unsafe manner because they have done so in the past and got away with it. When this question is asked at work, the answer is often “I’ve always done it that way”. Although this may be true, the potential for an accident is never far away. The familiar accident/incident triangle models such as the Heinrich Triangle suggests that for every 330 unsafe acts, 29 will result in a minor incident and 1 in a major accident or incident.

Over an extended period of time, the absence of an injury or adverse effect is actually reinforcing the unsafe behaviour that will, in all probability, lead to a major accident, incident or injury. In other words, the consequences of behaving unsafely will almost always determine future unsafe behaviour, simply because reinforced behaviour nearly always tends to be repeated.

This is particularly true if the reinforcing effect of the behaviour is soon, certain and positive. This can be illustrated by addictive behaviour such as smoking. For the smoker the reinforcing effect is soon (immediate), certain (every time) and positive (satisfies the craving). The negative consequences of the behaviour, such as smoking-related ill-health are perceived as some years away (late) and uncertain. At work, people will find it difficult to follow procedures if they are consistently rewarded by, for example, saving time that achieves extra production by behaving unsafely. It ticks all three of the reinforcing boxes.

This type of unsafe behaviour can very quickly become the norm. It is often further exacerbated by line managers turning a blind eye to the behaviour, or in some cases even encouraging it for the sake of production. Of course, this seriously undermines the company’s efforts for continuous safety improvement, as it leads to the employee perception that safety can be compromised for the sake of production.

It is not until an accident happens that the issue is addressed. And even then, the investigation very often only goes as far as identifying the unsafe behaviour – usually, finding someone to blame. The root cause of the unsafe behaviour, and hence the accident (which is very often an organisational deficiency), is never determined and therefore not addressed, leading to the possibility of the same chain of events in the future.

By addressing the unsafe behaviour as soon as it is observed, determining the reason for the behaviour and addressing the organisational deficiency that is the root cause of the behaviour, unsafe behaviour can be eliminated. Keep on doing this for every unsafe behaviour observed, and very soon we may see a culture developing where safe behaviour becomes the “I’ve always done it that way”.

Ellis Whittam has a number of Consultants experienced in helping organisations develop behaviour safety programmes. To find out more about how we can help your organisation, please contact us.

ONLINE TRAINING | IOSH Safety for Executives and Directors

Looking to improve your understanding of health and safety, demonstrate your commitment to employee wellbeing, and protect your business from prosecution? Learn essential skills in effective risk management, including how to create a COVID-secure workplace, with this one-day course for business owners, senior managers and directors.

29 September 2020 | 09:00 – 16:30

Director of Health & Safety Services

Nick Wilson

Health and safety should be a priority for any business but ensuring compliance can often feel like a daunting task. We’re here to help you turn complex regulations into sensible, proportionate controls.

Our live Client satisfaction rating is currently:

Last Updated:

Urgent Issue?

Why not take a look through our library of carefully created Health & Safety documents and templates to see if we have what you need?

Let's start talking on 0345 226 8393 or complete the form below.

More From EW

Get your FREE download

We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

Call us on 0345 226 8393.

Combating coronavirus | FREE advice and resources for employers

Our Coronavirus Advice Hub is open now. Get instant access to regularly updated guidance, sample policies, template risk assessments and more.
 
Click to explore what’s available.

Get your FREE download

We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

Call us on 0345 226 8393.

Get your FREE download

We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

Call us on 0345 226 8393.

Hi, how can we help?
Click the button below to chat to an expert.

Is Your Business Based in Scotland?

Go straight to our free sector-specific Risk Assessment Templates for Scottish organisations…
 
Click to explore what’s available.
Error: Embedded data could not be displayed.
Read our Privacy Policy.