Wednesday, February 17, 2016

How "Safety-minded" are you .... Really?

I was mowing my lawn yesterday (Yes, Vancouver weather means mowing begins in mid-February some years) when  a passing neighbour noted my hearing and eye protection with a “thumbs up”.    I guess wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to mow the lawn says something to others about a person’s attitude toward safety.  

When  I reflect on how I mowed my lawns decades ago,     I’m  certain my behaviour back then also said something about my inner values and beliefs;  safety might not have been the message I was sending .  The battery-powered electric mower I use today is arguably safer than the old gas mowers  I used years ago,  but back then I didn’t always wear the PPE or disconnect the sparkplug terminal before clearing the blade.  Today, wearing the PPE is second nature and removing the power key to “lock out” the motor when clearing the blade is something I always do.  I do it now for myself but I remember making that a consistent part of my routine around the time the kids were old enough to want to help.  I recall wanting to set a good example.  I realized that my actions communicated something about my inner values and beliefs.  Kids are perceptive;  you can talk about safety but what really gets through to them and becomes part of their way of thinking is not what you say but what you do.    

My attitudes and beliefs about safety have changed over the years; that changed mindset has altered the way I think about hazards and the way I act to manage risks at work, at home, on the road and at play.    

The connection between the way we think (our attitudes, values and beliefs) and the way we act (what we do-including what we chose to consider in decision-making) is important.  What we do is mediated by what we think.  Periodically assessing our underlying personal attitudes and beliefs can provide a valuable perspective on how “safety-minded” we are.  But how can you assess your own “safety-mindedness”?

Most people will say they are “safety conscious” but being “safety-minded” is more than being merely safety conscious or aware.  You can’t directly observe a state of mind but because your mind mediates your actions action, you can observe your own actions—what you actual do when it comes to certain safety-oriented situation that arrive in everyday life.  The pattern of your actions across your work and non-work life reveals your current level of safety-mindedness. 

Categorize your current safety behaviours across the following safety statements in this Safety-Mindedness Self-Assessment.  Be honest with yourself about the frequency of each behaviour and you may get some valuable insights into where you are on the” safety-minded continuum”.  Just fill in the blanks with the most appropriate word to describe the pattern you follow in these common situations with a safety component.

Use the following terms to complete the ten sentences below:              
Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Usually, Almost always, Always

1)       I ______drive within 10% of the posted speed limit in normal conditions.

2)       I ______ignore text messages on my handheld or wrist device while I am driving.

3)       I ______use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE- safety glasses and hearing protection, for example) when it is recommended (hard-hat at work, hearing protection when mowing, etc.).

4)      I ______ visibly pay attention to the airline pre-flight safety presentation.

5)      I ______read the safety card provided on commercial flights I take.

6)      I ______walk further to the marked intersection to cross the street rather than cross elsewhere.

7)      I ______dispose of tools / appliances / furniture pieces   that may work but are unsafe.

8)      I ______use the recommended PPE when I engage in sports activities (cycling, skiing, skating).

9)      I ______ wear high visibility, reflective clothing or accessories when walking after dark.

10)   I ______ give safety-oriented products/accessories as gifts (first aid kit, earthquake kit, helmet, CO detector, fire extinguisher, safety helmet with bike).

Scoring:  Count the number of times you selected each of the following terms.  Multiply count times the value assigned each term and then total the points to determine your score.

  Term            Point Value    X            Count             Points 
   Never                         1         x            ______   =  _______
   Rarely                        2         x            ______   =  _______
   Sometimes                 3         x            ______   =  _______
   Usually                       4         x            ______   =  _______
   Almost always            5         x            ______   =  _______
   Always                       6         x            ______   =  _______
                                                       TOTAL Score   _______        

56-60  Safety is part of your belief system.  You  “walk the talk” at home, on the road, at work and play.  Safety is part of the way you think. You automatically assess the environment for hazards, continuously manage risks even in changing circumstances and adjust your behaviour to eliminate or minimize risks.

51-55  You almost always act safely and recognize the hazards in most activities.  You know you have some blind spots and you often make the effort to overcome them.  When you make a conscious decision to act less safe, you are highly aware of the potential risks, often resolving to change behaviour in the future.

41-50  You are aware of safety most of the time and act to reduce risks in most circumstances.  You are sometimes surprised by near misses and  injuries that happen to others and will consider changing your behaviour based on new information about hazards and risks. 

31-40   There are gaps and contradictions in your behaviour.  You don’t have a negative attitude towards safety but believe risks are sometimes overblown.  You frequently wonder if safety behaviour is worth the effort and cost over what else you could do with those resources.  You also believe that some risks don’t apply to you.

21-30   You may comply with required safety activities but don’t believe the risks are real for someone like you with your knowledge and experience.  With few exceptions, safety is extra work, not a way of thinking and acting.  You can see the point of a few specific safety measures but rely on design and procedures to have taken other hazards and risks into account.  It takes a real effort to think about possible hazards and risks beyond that. 

15-20  The immediate objective dominates your way of acting.  If you think about hazards at all, you minimize the risks/costs or you don’t believe the risks apply to you.  Safety is mostly passive and external to you.  You may comply with safety laws if you perceive the risk of being caught is more than minimal and penalties are high enough, otherwise the value of safety is just not there.    

10-14  Safety is not a consideration in what you do.  You rarely think about safety, hazards or risk.  Your safety relies on the innate design of the equipment you use, the actions of others and the environments you encounter.  If you are caught violating a safety rule, you are not likely to change your behaviour unless the cost of not doing so are very high. 

Safety-mindedness is not a static trait.  You can change.  You can become more safety-minded.  And that change will be reflected in increased frequency of behaviours that increase safety, reduce risk,  and communicate to others something about the importance of safety to you.  Something to think about next time you mow your lawn.

No comments: