Convincing someone to work safely
By Madison Hanscom, PhD
It is near impossible to change someone’s mind — but this can feel like an important mission for leaders and safety professionals. Some try to convince through arguing, others like to give people options to persuade them, many try appealing to emotions, and others use an ‘information overload’ approach that includes facts and figures. But what really works? How can we convince someone to work safely? How do attitudes really change?
To begin, you have to make it about your specific people in their specific situation. (That’s a less direct way of saying “it depends”.) Because there’s not a silver bullet for attitude change, you need to listen more than talk. There are many psychological theories that explain attitude change, and all of them support the notion that there are different contributing factors that vary by situation. You need to start by figuring out why employees aren’t engaging in the safe behavior in the first place. Is the PPE too hot and heavy? Does it take too much time? Does the protocol not fit the task? Has the cultural norm supported another way of doing things? Do they feel it isn’t valued or rewarded?
If you charge into the situation determined to change attitudes without understanding why they exist in the first place, you will fail. People don’t want to be told to work safely — they know it is the right thing to do. People want to go home in one piece to their family. Instead, listen to them to figure out their “why”. Sometimes you can even ask people leading questions and they will come up with the solution themselves. As an example, instead of telling someone to wear their PPE, ask them why they are not wearing it.
• You might learn about an actionable barrier - “It’s too hard to do it”
• You might learn about cultural norms - “No one else is doing it”
• You might learn about self-efficacy issues - “I’m not capable of doing it”
• You might learn about training issues - “I didn’t know I was supposed to do it”
Once you figure out the attitude and the source of the thinking — you’re in a better position to do something about it.
At Propulo Consulting, we care about the health and wellbeing of all workers. We partner with you to improve the world of work using the latest insights from research. Our team has the expertise to help your business build a safer and healthier culture.