How to Combat Accidents at Work… by Steve Krause. The Safety Guru.
Why do people with years of experience still have accidents at work? Could it be time to get back to some of the basic principles and re-focus on what we’re thinking about in terms of awareness?
Why it’s impossible to be aware of safety all day long!
During your drive to work, you would have encountered speeding cars, heavy goods vehicles and motorcyclists. You would have negotiated traffic lights, junctions, pedestrian crossings, roundabouts and slip roads on and off motorways. You might even have been engrossed in the radio or other passenger conversation. You would have been aware of danger and even slowed down for speed cameras. And you did all of those things without being aware you were doing them and somehow, even although you were constantly surrounded by speeding metal objects full of explosive fuel, controlled by people experiencing various levels of stress… somehow, you managed to arrive at work safely!
Millions of people do the same thing every working day of their lives.
We arrive at work, often in potentially dangerous environments, surrounded by hazards and distractions. Machinery, materials, tools, waste, hazardous material etc… we might even get distracted by noise, or the dimness in our ear protectors, engrossed in our thoughts or conversations with co-workers. But we just get on with the job we’ve been trained to do… somehow managing to end the shift unscathed… Most of the time!
What is a dangerous environment to one person is different for another…
Take someone off the building site dressed in full PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and they become cumbersome in the confines of an office environment and vice versa. Imagine the wrong shoes on a building site! It’s not only the environment that’s the problem, it’s how the people who function in one place integrate and synchronise with each other. Think of a busy kitchen, the corridors in a school, or inside an operating theatre.
The reason we avoid accidents… most of the time. Even although we don’t seem to be focusing on the potential dangers within our chosen workspace, we have pre-conditioned reference points that allow us to perform certain tasks in a given environment safely.
In the field of behavioural psychology it’s known as “automisation”. Through continuous repetitive behaviours we imbed neuro-physical connections and eventually develop habits or skills. The more reference points we have towards performing a particular task within a certain environment, the less we need to focus on the job at hand. Often, as we go through the motions time and time again, we become so familiar with the task/environment that we become complacent to what’s going on around us, and we just switch off our attention scanner.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it gets us to work safely everyday doesn’t it? … However, when the environment changes and we don’t have references to deal with those changes we simply become a rookie again…
Change is inevitable, however progress isn’t!
Accidents can happen when we have someone who is unaware of changes in the environment or is aware and refuses to appreciate or admit they don’t have the reference points or the experience needed to deal with the change. Simply because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean it won’t happen!
It’s like driving home from work, in icy conditions and thinking “I’ll be okay accidents don’t happen to me, I’ve driven for years without one”… and hitting a patch of black ice! A change in the environment can have deadly consequences if we don’t have references to deal with them.
What’s the solution?
How can we change this mindset at work? It’s really quite simple… By making people aware of potential changes. By making them aware of their personal responsibilities towards responding in a way that is conducive to overall safety. By pre-empting the potential changes at a managerial level and by communicating with supervisors and teams and offering additional training to condition potential outcomes.
How we can learn from the Rookies
Imagine the care, attention, and awareness you would offer a rookie under your supervision. You would offer them hyper-care and attention until you were satisfied that they could perform proficiently. Imagine you were teaching someone to drive! You would pre-empt everything that could, go wrong.
You might even teach them what to do if they hit a patch of black ice, if you had those references yourself. You would also probably strongly emphasise the importance of safety and being aware of changes in the environment as they progressed onto busy roads and eventually high speed motorway driving. And when you were finished coaching, you would hope that they would continue to maintain and grow the skills you helped them to develop, to expand their reference points and be prepared for anything.
Being skilled is ‘knowing how to do the basics really well’, and being safe is when ‘we know when to stay focused and tuned into our surroundings’.
I once heard a story about a Canadian trapper who would walk across a frozen lake 5 miles wide, to get supplies his family needed to survive during winter. Saving him a 150 mile walk around the lake. He knew just when the ice was best to take the weight of him and his sled and he knew how to tune into the noises as the ice squealed under the strain. He knew when the ice was starting to get weaker. He knew when it was safe and when it was time to change his strategy. To survive the winter he had to know how to tune into the harshest of environments. When he passed this knowledge onto his son he had no time for complacency or mistakes.
What’s the difference that makes a difference?
The big difference between people who are successful at what they do – performing safely and productively at work – and those who don’t. Can be greatly affected by the way they approach their personal responsibilities about focusing on optimizing their personal effectiveness.
The problem with many people today is that they are too quick to place the blame on something outside of themselves for the results they are getting or creating at work and in life. Too much stress, too much to do, not enough time to do it, if only such and such would do this or that. The economy, the boss, the company etc… All the time blaming and complaining something or someone else, when in fact the only person that can deal with the changes going on all around is ourselves.
By finding ways to make people aware that they and they alone are 100% responsible for the way they behave at work can begin a change in the way they think. This can bring dramatic changes in safe working practice and productivity in any environment.
Although it might be impossible to think about safety all day long, it is possible however, for everyone that you work with to go home safe at the end of the day!
I work with professionals who aspire to be the best and are proud of what they have achieved but know they can be more. I teach them how to focus on success drive performance and take action to produce results; how to develop the winner’s mind-set needed to make the desired goals of your business or organisation a reality.
If you are looking for ways to improve productivity, accelerate success and increase the safety and well-being of the people in your teams. If you want a package that can deliver the full programme with solutions to all the challenges human beings have and create working, or trying to work together… Please contact me!
I’d love to meet with you.
Steve Krause CEO
Krause Consultacy / Krause Training Group
Mobile hotline 07767 407166
“Get your people listening, talking and taking action towards 100% safety”