SAFETY AND TRAINING
the specific habits they expect to see exhibited all the time. They
then strive to build and anchor those habits so they become second
nature. These are coached and reinforced by every level of leadership to the degree that the ingrained habit is not only exhibited at
the workplace, but in almost all aspects of an employee’s life.
This concept of intentionally building positive safe work habits requires more front-end effort than the typical approach taken
by most companies. Too many companies assume that “telling”
a person to do something or providing information in a com-puter-based training module creates the knowledge leading to
desired habits, but it rarely does. Most people develop safe habits
over time through reinforcement, coaching and feedback. It’s not
as straightforward as putting on a training seminar. Once a new
habit is established, however, it becomes the new normal practice that requires little effort to sustain. If the time and dedication
needed to anchor good behaviors are considered, coaching to
establish safe work habits is less effort than training, retraining,
threatening and discipline.
Companies that excel in safety performance understand it is
incumbent to go beyond telling an employee to do something in
training. Behaviors must be repeated at a high enough frequency
over time to become a habit.
This means that the coaching process always extends beyond
most companies’ initial training programs. As a result, the employee’s supervisors must play a role in the safe work habit-forming
process. On a positive note, there are only four prerequisite coaching requirements essential for supervisors to anchor safety behaviours and create the right habits. Front-line supervision must:
1. Be able to spend time in the field
2. Position themselves to observe and know what to look for
3. Have courage to speak up and act on their observations
4. Communicate in a way that helps the person being coached
It is crucial to coach foremen and supervisors to get to a level
where they understand their safety role and have skills and con-
fidence needed to move the needle forward on safety every day.
Managers and senior leaders, on the other hand, would benefit
from having a clear understanding of the pros, cons and limita-
tions of default tactics—specifically, safety messaging and formal
discipline. As much as senior management may take the lead on
safety strategy, front-line supervision have the largest impact on
safety culture, standards and performance.
By setting clear expectations, holding people accountable, observing what is going on and acting on observations, employees’
behavior can be changed. Furthermore, front-line supervisors
have a specific role in error reduction through leveraging their observations and knowledge of good vs. bad habits, and having the
courage required to establish and change work habits.
Editor’s note: For the full article on Safety, Error Reduction and
Human Performance visit www.theengineroom.ca.