Safety Behaviour Systems: Worker Motivation

iStock_000012769353LargeThe main causes of accidents have changed in recent years with human error and safety behaviour issues usually being the dominant factors. Inadvertent types of human errors (“slips/lapses” and “mistakes”) are best dealt with by training or improved design.

Safety behavioural systems focus on reducing another form of human error – “violations”. This is a type of error where an individual deliberately contravenes established and known safety rules drawn up for the safe or efficient operation and maintenance of plant or equipment.

There are a number of reasons why people want to violate safety rules and procedures; they are known as “direct motivators”.

Making life easier
Poor design features often make a job much more difficult and time consuming than necessary. Attention to the “ergonomics” of equipment can reduce some violations.

The following design features increase the likelihood of violations:

  • Awkward or uncomfortable working postures.
  • Difficulty in getting into or out of the operating or maintenance position.
  • PPE that is uncomfortable to wear or difficult to use.
  • Poor environmental conditions of noise, dust, heat or cold.

Getting the job done quicker or saving time
Time saved may be judged as needed to achieve production, especially if the work schedules are unrealistic. Alternatively, time saved might be used to finish work early.

The following design features increase the likelihood of violations:

  • Design features making a job excessively time consuming.
  • Equipment that seems excessively slow to respond.
  • Frequent false alarms or unreliable instrumentation.

Financial gain
The time saved through taking short cuts can often result in higher bonus payments.

Practicality of rules
Although safety rules and procedures may have originally been appropriate, changes in working methods or PPE can result in some being impractical or inappropriate for some situations.

Unrealistic operating rules or maintenance schedules
Some instructions and procedures can be needlessly complicated but there will be many situations where they are correct and necessary; however, the workforce may see them as unnecessary. It is therefore employee perception of the need for the rules that is lacking.

Demonstrating skill and enhancing self-esteem
Some people break rules to show to themselves and others that they can achieve task goals by adopting unapproved methods. This demonstrates that they have the skills to control risks.

Employees may see some rules as being introduced for those less skilled than themselves and following them undermines their own abilities. This may reduce their job satisfaction. They would violate the rules to show to themselves, and others, that they have exceptional skills and abilities.

Deliberate sabotage/vandalism
Such violations have been identified with contractors who are near to finishing a job. The vandalism occurs in an attempt to extend the contract to conduct the necessary repairs.

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