Safety Psychology: Show the Consequences

Nov. 24, 2015
Asked what can help manufacturers develop a strong safety culture, readers suggested showing workers the gruesome results of unsafe acts.

As part of our recent survey trying to get to the psychology behind safety, we asked Automation World readers what factors can help develop a strong safety culture. Several respondents emphasized the need for workers to see the consequences of poor safety—the graphic outcome of unsafe acts. If you have injured employees, use them to show other employees what can happen. Let them tell their stories.

“We can talk until we’re blue in the face, but until they see the actual consequence, safety will be an inconvenience and ignored,” one person said. “People don’t want to see gory pictures, but those pictures leave a lasting impression.”

Another respondent agreed, recommending visual graphics of actual accidents as a way to create a strong safety psychology among workers. “Show the results of mistakes made, shortcuts taken—i.e., burns, crushed or severed extremities, and even, dare I say it…death,” he said. “People have to be left with an impression in their head.”

Respondents also advised emphasizing the loved ones left behind by a careless worker. One respondent recommended “tying safety to family, and the desire to go home the same way you came in. Thinking about whether or not you’d ask your son or daughter to do the same procedure the same way.”

Even just bringing pictures of your loved ones to work can help to remind you why safety is important.

These sorts of tactics may be particularly necessary with a new generation of operators, notes Steve Elliott, senior director of safety offer marketing, process automation, at Schneider Electric. “Because many of these next-gen operators haven’t been exposed to true plant incidents, much of what they bring to the plant floor is theory. Experience counts for so much; perception and understanding changes when an operator has lived through an incident.”

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