Understanding Bad Safety Habits and How to Correct Them

Author: Rene Garcia


Every workplace, job site, and organization has unique challenges when it comes to safety. That’s because every workforce, including suppliers contractors, is composed of unique individuals who have diverse backgrounds and experiences. One worker may identify a danger that another worker may not. Or one worker may be quicker to recognize a dangerous situation than others. In the worst cases, some workers may have been “normalized” on a different job site and now bring their bad habits to their current workplace. Fortunately, organizations can change behavior to get staff operating at the same safety performance level and prevent potential incidents that could lead to supply chain disruption. The first step is to understand how people function.

Safety in Numbers and New Routines

It’s easy for workers to develop bad habits and become normalized, meaning that they no longer regard an action as dangerous because previously doing the action didn’t result in a bad outcome. This is learned behavior done through routine. An action performed enough times can become instinctual and performed without thinking. That’s why a worker may knock a sharp tool off a table and attempt to catch it before it hits the ground without considering that the object may cut them. Because of this, one of the first things cooks learn in the kitchen is to let knives fall. Doing so allows them to rewire their thinking and identify dangers before acting. For example, a worker with rewired habits that comes across a spilled chemical may assess the situation, like the magnitude of the spill or the type of chemical, before deciding on the best response.

Since the workforce is composed of different workers with different habits, it’s a good idea to have the group socialize their safety practices. Not only does socialization help share safety initiatives, but it also holds workers accountable to each other. When employees have safety top of mind, incident rates drop, and supply chain disruption is minimized.

Rewiring Responses to Hazardous Situations

Getting the workforce to make safe decisions is the goal of any safety leader. But what steps can a company take to rewire bad habits into good ones? It won’t happen overnight, but a good plan of action is to create a safety procedure that breaks down instances of potential danger into three basic steps:

  1. Observe and Identify: Hazardous areas should be clearly marked so that workers can be alerted to danger and can recognize abnormal states in those spaces.
  2. Think and Reason: The worker should gather as much information about the incident as the situation allows. A biological spill, like blood, needs to be handled differently than a flammable substance, like fuel.
  3. Execute and Compare: The worker follows the plan he or she decided on, then shares the results with other workers. Not only does this help the workforce through social knowledge, but the results can also be tested against other workers’ experiences, thereby refining future actions.

Of course, companies will want to adapt this process into something that works for their specific environments. However, through these broad steps, organizations can reduce the time it takes workers to detect hazards, develop assessment skills in employees, and create more cohesion among the staff. Best of all, workers will be safer and supply chain risk is reduced.

Everyone owns safety. And when your organization relies on a supply chain, your responsibility to minimize the risk profile through safety grows exponentially. Avetta can help you identify and vet trusted partners who have the same safety goals in mind.

Learn more about our Supplier Auditing and Prequalification Services

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