Our Safety Briefings are back! After a break for a year, Safety Briefings are back with more practical suggestions to help people work even more safely. The objective is to share concisely and plainly, ways to help people adopt the best safety behaviours – every time. So please share with colleagues. Your feedback would be very welcome.
The first step to overcoming the “Fear Factor”? Admit It!
There is no doubt that one of the most powerful forces preventing people from doing the right thing for safety is the fear factor.
Why do intelligent, experienced, competent and well-meaning people go ahead with jobs when they KNOW they shouldn’t? Isn’t that the most puzzling question?
One major reason is FEAR.
Here’s a list of some of the fears people mention when explaining why they sometimes go ahead when conditions are unsafe.
- Being seen as lazy
- Branded as a trouble maker
- Looking stupid
- Admitting that they don’t understand
- Being seen as incompetent
- Being seen as weak
- Upsetting workmates
- Losing their jobs
Examples of fear in action
I’m sure you recognise some or all of these fears having, like me, experienced a few yourself. How these fears inhibit safety is self-explanatory. However, let’s look at a few concrete examples to put fear into context
• A man cut his finger badly because he was trying to complete a job so as not to leave it for his nightshift colleagues. He wasn’t lazy – he was afraid to be seen to be lazy.
• In the behavioural safety workshops, I facilitate, comments like these sometimes arise:
“All this stop the job business is fine, but what if I stop the job and I’m wrong?”
“I know nothing about drilling so what right do I have to stop them?”
Can you see how the fear of looking stupid could prevent people from stopping unsafe acts?
• A service engineer split his thumb lifting a 45kg low-torque valve. Although he knew it was silly to do lift that weight he didn’t want to appear weak to others around him.
• A technician caused a platform shutdown when the drawings were difficult to read. He knew he should have referred to the manual but didn’t ask to see it in case his boss would deem him incompetent.
• One member of a crew suggested using lifting equipment to reduce manual handling of a heavy load. However, it was about 10 minutes to the evening meal and his mates were annoyed with him. They wanted to manual handle it. He backed down, went ahead with the lift and pulled his back muscles.
What does this means for improving safety?
Implementing procedures, training, ergonomics and equipment are all great. But we must find ways to fight the fear factor.
In the next Safety Briefing, we’ll discuss some practical suggestions for overcoming the fear factor.
As always your feedback is very welcome. Any topics you’d like covered in future Safety Briefings?