In my past life as a team-leader, it was always important for me to understand why a team member would take a risk at work. For a long time, I could never understand why a person would expose themselves to personal injury or jeopardise the safety of workmates as a result of risky behaviour.
Over time I found there to be three distinct categories that shed light on the complexity of risk and human behaviours.
1. Intentional Risk Takers
In this category, a person recognises both the risks and the benefits associated with a particular task. Despite this understanding, they choose to take the risk, convinced that the potential gains outweigh the dangers of injuring themselves or others. It’s a fragile balance between calculated assessment and a willingness to gamble with safety.
2. Unintentional Risk Takers
Here, the root of risk lies in a lack of knowledge. The person is unaware of the correct procedure or the safe way to perform the task. Their lack of awareness can lead them down a risk-laden path, without them even realising it.
3. Habitual Complacency
These individuals know the risks and they regularly take risks, which creates complacency. This belief that nothing bad will ever happen is possibly driven by the fact they have avoided any near misses or incidents in the past. Familiarity breeds carelessness, leading to a dangerous disconnect between awareness and action.
The Human Factor: Wired for Efficiency
It’s also worth noting that as humans, we are inherently wired to seek the path of least resistance, a trait that often influences our actions. If there is a quicker and more efficient way to complete a task or to move from point “A” to point “B” then we will naturally take it. It’s our instinct.
Both action and non-actions can have consequences, which can be good or bad.
As a leader, if I was going to have a positive impact on my team’s safety culture, I needed to identify what the common denominator was with all of us. Conversations spanning weeks unveiled a common thread that binds us all: Family.
The Power of Family Connection
Armed with this newfound insight, I found a genuine connection with my team members. This connection allowed me to help reshape their perceptions and beliefs surrounding risk by establishing an emotional link between their actions and the impact on their families.
What I found was that some individuals believed they would never be injured and if they were, they believed it would be so minor that taking risks outweigh the potential of an injury. This was when I thought to myself that if they don’t care about themselves then who do they care about? Family.
A Shift in Safety Culture
With a profound shift in focus, our safety culture underwent a rapid transformation. The vision became clear: “If we hurt ourselves, we hurt our family.” Suddenly, risky behaviours were seen through a new lens and the consequences reached far beyond just themselves.
In the end, cracking the code of risky behaviours and intertwining it with our sense of family turned our team into safety advocates. It wasn’t just about rules anymore; it was about looking out for our own and our kin. By linking every action to those who matter most, we elevated our awareness and transformed our approach to safety.
So, there you have it, a journey to a safety-centred mindset, all sparked by understanding the human psyche and our deep-rooted connections. It’s a tale of weaving logic and emotion, resulting in a workplace where safety isn’t just a duty; it’s a heartfelt commitment to the ones we cherish.