Changing behavior is not enough

Changing behavior is not enough

It is not enough to change the behaviour of employees; companies should also change the belief systems around safety. MARISKA MORRIS learns more from Brett Solomon, managing director of Kinetic Leadership Institute

Safety systems and regulations are extremely important to a company’s safety culture, yet it is the behaviour of the workforce that has the biggest impact on safety.

“Companies literally spend millions making sure that the working environment is as safe as possible. They can have the best barricades and risk management in place, but if the staff do not comply with the regulations, then the rest is almost redundant,” says Solomon.

It is important to have a workforce that complies with safety regulations, but attempting to change behaviour alone will not achieve this goal. Instead, Solomon suggests a neuro-safety approach in which a company attempts to change the belief systems surrounding safety among its employees.

“It is a person’s thinking and feeling that will drive their behaviour. This is the problem with most safety strategies. We want to change people’s behaviour without changing their belief systems,” Solomon notes. In order to influence belief systems, there needs to be an understanding of how the brain functions.

Fundamental brain functions that have an impact on safety include the filtering and processing of information based on its importance to achieving a goal. As the brain is inherently lazy, it will filter information and focus on the most important aspects, while ignoring the rest.

Overloading employees with information and new processes could put them at risk and could create a blind spot. Solomon notes: “Employees focused on work might miss fundamental changes in their environment.”

This could lead to a safety hazard. For this reason, it is important to build safety-conscious habits among employees. They should, for example, automatically put on safety equipment before entering a factory, construction site or mine. It is important to continuously bring safety to the forefront and to make it part of a worker’s daily activity.

Managers can also change their own belief systems. Solomon says that 87 percent of workers are disengaged because they feel managed. He proposes that employers lead their workforce. When a competent person is hired and trained, they need to be trusted to do their work.

Employees should take responsibility for their own safety and be given the opportunity to be innovative in providing safety solutions. “A company has a good safety culture when it is the employees who enforce the rules and policies,” Solomon concludes.

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