Over the last 20 years, we have seen significant safety improvements across industry. Investment in environmental controls (e.g. engineering advances) and safety practices (e.g. safety-based policies, procedures and training) have been successful in reducing injury rates—to a point. And while behaviour-based safety training programs have created greater awareness of the importance of safety and improved the use of behaviour-based safety tools such as risk assessments, organisations still find themselves facing a safety plateau.
Something different must be done if organisations are to break through the safety plateau and unlock the next stage of safety performance. Simply doing more of the same—i.e. telling someone how they should behave—is unlikely to produce the changes organisations seek in terms of safety behaviour. There is a need to move beyond traditional education campaigns, fear-driven approaches and behaviour-based safety strategies, and take individual psychology more deeply into account. Only then can organisations foster employee motivation to own safety and display discretionary effort on their journey to safety citizenship.
Having an understanding of individual change processes can help inform the design of safety programs and interventions. Most safety initiatives currently employed target behaviour modification—i.e. what people need to do to stay safe. But if an individual does not yet see the reason for or have an internal intention to change, these initiatives are at best ineffective. In fact, depending on the context and nature of the program, it may actually breed disinterest and lead to disengagement, resentment or forced compliance. However, by working with our employees and helping them to move through the five key stages of change, we can achieve the results we seek.
- Psychology and Safety
- Individual Change Processes
- The Five Stages of Change
- Designing Effective Safety Interventions with the Brain in Mind
First published 2014. Last updated 2018.