Safety Promotion: Doing the Right Thing Right!

May 3rd, 2011 | By | Category: Health and Safety

Although safety professionals have long acknowledged that the promotion of safety is an important component of a safety management system, many organizations have had limited success in promoting safety throughout their own companies. For example, one way many companies attempt to promote safety is through the use of slogans. Safety slogans such as “Think Safety” and “Towards Zero Incidents” have been posted on banners across shipyards and construction sites. Despite their powerful sound, these slogans have failed to deliver meaningful performance improvements. In my opinion, safety promotions fail to achieve their desired results because they  tend to focus on correcting employees’ behaviors rather than their safety values; as I refer to it, they focus on mindware rather than heartware.

Mindware Versus Heartware

A person’s values serve as an internal map that guides behavior. Try giving a map to a person and asking him to find his way around the jungle. Without bearings or a compass, he will never be able to do it. The bearings and compass in this sense is a person’s moral compass—his values. To be successful, safety promotions should guide a person’s inner values, the heartware of employees. If people acquire the proper heartware, their behaviors (mindware) will follow.

If the above example does not suffice, imagine installing the latest Windows 7 operating system on a Pentium I processor. A crash is assured! Upgrading the heartware (hardware) is the only way that better mindware (software) can be installed.

This shift in focus can be encouraged by providing employees with incentives when they observe safety rules willingly or, even better, when they encourage fellow employees to follow safety procedures! Over time, these actions become a self-reinforcing cycle. This, then, will achieve what safety promotions initially intended—modified behavior and better safety results.

Other Articles by Willie Chan in the EHS Journal

 Behavior-based Safety: Taming the Lucky Monkey

About the Author

Willie Chan is an environmental, health and safety professional working in the Singapore Rail Industry, where he is currently leading the Operations Safety Team. He is a member of the System Safety Society (Singapore Chapter) who has a research interest in behavior-based safety.

Image: Courtesy of Willie Chan.

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