Promoting Interest in Safety
One of the common subjects in any safety reference is how to get people interested in safety. Apparently, not getting hurt is not enough motivation for people to be interested in safety. Personally, I prefer to avoid getting injured whenever possible so working safely is just part of my work ethic.
Looking at a 1964 issue of the National Safety Council handbook, they suggest using “a pretty girl” to promote interest in industrial situations. They also recommend “a shaggy dog.” I guess there were not as many women working in industry back in 1964 as there are today.
I notice that from internet search data that promoting safety is still a big concern for managers. Safety slogans and other safety promotional ideas still rank very highly.
However, it is my observation that all such safety promotions are basically useless. Unless you change the fundamental culture of the workplace, accidents will continue to happen and people will continue to get hurt no matter how many pretty girls hold up safety banners.
In order to create a safe working culture, we first need to consider why people get injured at work. Often injuries are caused by inattention to the job or by taking short cuts. Next we must consider why people take chances with their own safety either by not paying attention or by taking shortcuts.
I often see managers who perceive those who get hurt on the job as being lazy or who are otherwise not trying to do a good job. Often, however, the exact opposite is true. These people want to do a good job but due to their own lack of skill or understanding of mechanical principles, they take unnecessary risks. They may not realize how much danger they are facing; they are simply trying to do the best job they can with minimal effort on their part.
People who get injured may also be unconsciously punishing themselves. It the work environment is oppressive and devoid of positive reinforcement, they may injure them selves in an unconscious effort to prove that they are working as hard as they can.
In order to create a safe working environment, we can begin by placing clear expectations on the work that is to be preformed. By providing clear and detail work instructions that describe the safe and effective way of doing the job, employees will be less inclined to experiment with potentially unsafe methods. Supervision can play a huge role in insuring workers follow the safe work procedures by observing the work. If the procedures need to be changed to match current practice, then the revisions need to be investigated and implemented without delay. Employees should not be allowed to deviate from the prescribed safe and effective work instructions.
Care must be taken by supervisors not to reward unsafe procedures either by actively supporting unsafe practices or by ignoring them. If safety shortcuts are allowed to become part of the routine, a safety culture cannot be established.
For more information on creating a safe and effective working environment, see my other articles. Safety promotions become unnecessary once a safe and effective work environment has been established.