Workplace Safety and Behavioural Science

Mindful Moves: Improving Workplace Safety with the Science of Smart Choices

Enter the mysterious world of behavioural science and how it can be a game-changer in transforming workplace safety and culture by tackling those tricky irrational thinking patterns.

Imagine this:

A workplace where safety isn’t just a set of rules but a way of thinking, a shared mindset that embraces the well-being of every team member. Now, enter the leader of this little adventure – behavioural science.

Rewriting the Script:

  • In our minds, we often follow scripts that lead us to shortcuts or risky decisions. Behavioural science helps us rewrite these scripts. It’s like giving our brains a safety upgrade, tweaking the narrative so that making the safer choice becomes the new leader’s journey.

Nudging Toward Safety:

  • Think of behavioural nudges as friendly whispers guiding us toward the right path. Subtle cues, reminders, and visuals are strategically placed to nudge us away from potential hazards gently. It’s like having a personal safety coach cheering you on in the background.

Turning Mistakes into Lessons:

  • We’re all human, and mistakes happen. Behavioural science doesn’t point fingers; instead, it turns mistakes into lessons. By creating a culture that sees near-misses as learning opportunities, we’re transforming oops moments into stepping stones toward a safer, smarter future.

Celebrating the Safety Leaders:

  • Who doesn’t love a good pat on the back? Behavioural science encourages reinforcing behaviour and celebrating the safety leaders among us. Those who consistently make safe choices become the leaders, inspiring others to follow and improve performance.

Unmasking Cognitive Biases:

  • Have you ever heard of those sneaky cognitive biases that can lead us down the wrong path? Behavioural science is like a detective, unmasking these biases and showing us how to outsmart them. It’s empowering us to be the Sherlock Holmes of our own safety adventure.

The Power of Positive Peer Pressure:

  • We’re all influenced by those around us. Behavioural science harnesses the power of positive peer pressure. Showcasing the majority making safe choices creates a ripple effect where safety becomes the right, admirable choice.

Gamifying Safety:

  • Who said safety training has to be dull? Behavioural science introduces a bit of fun into the mix. Imagine safety challenges and games that make learning an adventure. It’s like turning workplace safety into a quest where everyone emerges as the leader.

Setting Sail with Personal Safety Goals:

  • Everyone loves a goal. Behavioural science can encourage us to set personal safety goals. It’s like charting our course toward a safer future. Small, achievable milestones become the compass guiding us, making safety a journey worth taking.

So, by rewriting the script, behavioural science principles can help organisations foster a safety culture that addresses irrational thinking and promotes long-term, positive behavioural change among employees.

Here’s to workplaces where behavioural science isn’t just a fancy term but a guiding force. It’s about nudging people toward smart choices, a companion on your journey to a safer, happier, and more sustainable workplace.

Health and safety conversations

How to approach a worker about a health and safety issue.

Hey there!

I want to share some tips on how to approach your fellow workers when it comes to health and safety issues. We’re all in this together, and it’s important that we look out for each other’s well-being.

So, let’s dive into it with a friendly and problem-solving attitude.

Approach with Care

First things first, approach your co-worker with a friendly and understanding attitude.

Remember, sometimes people don’t realise they’re doing something unsafe. We all have our habits, and safety might not be top of mind.

So, no finger-pointing here, and don’t assume they’re intentionally being unsafe.

Be Clear and Concerned

When discussing their behaviour, be clear and objective.

Avoid sounding like you’re criticising them.

Instead of saying something like, “I can’t believe you climbed the ladder that way! Don’t you know what could happen?” try a more empathetic approach.

Say something like, “I saw the way you climbed that ladder, and I’m concerned you could get hurt.”

This way, you’re showing them that you genuinely care about their safety.

Explain the Why

It’s crucial not just to point out the problem but also to offer a solution.

Give clear instructions on the right behaviour and explain why it matters.

For instance, say, “I’d prefer that you get someone to hold the ladder for you. We want you to go home safely. If that means taking time to get help, I’d rather you do that than rush and risk getting hurt.”

By doing this, you’re guiding them and helping them understand the importance of the change.

Secure Their Commitment

Research has shown that people are more likely to follow through when they commit to change.

So, after your discussion, check if they understand and are on board.

You could ask, “Can I count on you to do this?” or “Do you agree to this?”

This step ensures that everyone is on the same page and committed to a safer work environment.

Offer Your Support

Lastly, let them know that you’ve got their back.

Tell them that if anyone questions their new behaviour or if they spot a risk themselves, you’re there to support them.

Leading by example and being consistent with health and safety practices is essential.

Say something like, “If anybody questions why you’re doing it this way, I can help explain it to them and let them know I expect all staff, including me, to do it this way.”

Remember, you’re a team, and you’re all responsible for each other’s safety.

By approaching these safety conversations with care and understanding, you can create a culture of health and safety that benefits you all.

Stay safe, and look out for one another!

A health and safety consultants journey

A journey in safety management empowering positive change

Hello there, fellow safety professionals!

I want to share a journey of the old me and the new me, a personal transformation from the negative to the positive regarding safety management.

Safety is not just a set of rules and regulations; it’s a way of life we must embrace wholeheartedly.

So, let’s embark on this journey together, and I hope my experiences and insights can inspire and guide you toward becoming a more proactive safety professional.

Let’s dive in.

Self-reflection and awareness

The first and most crucial step in becoming a positive safety professional is self-reflection and awareness. Take some time to reflect on your current attitude towards safety. Are you constantly focusing on the negatives, or do you see the potential for improvement and growth?


The old me: “Ugh, another safety meeting. This is so tedious.”

The new me: “I’m grateful for the opportunity to make our workplace safer through these meetings.”

Embrace a learning mindset

You need to adopt a learning mindset to shift from negativity to positivity. Safety is an evolving field, and there’s always something new to discover. Embrace every challenge as a chance to learn and grow.


The old me: “Why do we have to change our safety procedures again?”

The new me: “Let’s see how this change can enhance our safety measures and potentially save lives.”

Communicate effectively

Effective communication is key to fostering a positive culture of safety. Encourage open and honest discussions about safety concerns. Be a good listener, and ensure that everyone feels heard and valued.


The old me: “These employees never listen to me about safety.”

The new me: “I’ll engage in a dialogue with the employees to understand their perspective and concerns.”

Lead by example

As a safety professional, you are a role model for others. Lead by example in your commitment to safety. Practice what you preach and demonstrate the behaviours you want to see in your colleagues.


The old me: “Why should I wear my safety gear if no one else does?”

The new me: “I’ll wear my safety gear consistently to set a positive example for my colleagues.”

Celebrate your successes

Celebrate even the smallest safety successes. Positive reinforcement can do wonders for morale and motivation. Acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of your team in making the workplace safer.


The old me: “We haven’t had an accident in months, but that’s just luck.”

The new me: “Our accident-free streak is a result of our collective commitment to safety. Let’s keep up the good work!”

Continuous Improvement

Lastly, always strive for continuous improvement. Stay updated on the latest safety practices, encourage innovation, and be open to new ideas. Challenge the status quo and never settle for mediocrity.


The old me: “Our safety procedures are fine; there’s no need to change anything.”

The new me: “Let’s regularly review and update our safety procedures to ensure they are the best they can be.”

Just before you go…

Becoming a proactive safety professional is not an overnight transformation. It’s a journey. One that is rewarding.

Remember, your positive attitude towards safety can inspire and motivate your colleagues, ultimately creating a safer and more enjoyable workplace for everyone.

So, let’s embrace this journey together and make safety management a force for positive change in our organisations!

Health and safety consultant problem solving

I bet you this tricks your mind: The Einstellung Effect

Did you know the ‘Einstellung Effect’ can influence you?

And it probably does most times you’re faced with a problem.

So, let’s delve into the world of safety and explore how the Einstellung Effect can impact problem-solving and solutions in this critical domain.

We can all agree a workplace is where safety is paramount, and every decision you make carries the potential to protect lives and well-being.

But sometimes, hidden biases can cloud our judgment – that’s where the Einstellung Effect comes into play.

Picture this: You’re entrusted with ensuring the safety of a construction site. You encounter a new challenge, a problem that demands your full attention and innovative thinking. But here’s the catch – your mind has a tendency to rely on past experiences and established routines, even when they might not be the best fit.

It’s a cognitive quirk. A phenomenon. And it is known as the Einstellung Effect.

This phenomenon refers to our mind’s tendency to fall back on familiar solutions, even if they might not be the safest or most effective.

In essence, the Einstellung Effect implies that we might subconsciously stick to conventional methods when it comes to safety. It can even hamper finding innovative solutions that could provide better protection.

Imagine wearing glasses with tinted lenses – you do not see the full spectrum of possibilities. That’s the effect.

Three examples for you to ponder

A Scaffold Setup:

Imagine you’re supervising the assembly of scaffolding for a high-rise construction project. You’ve seen scaffolds erected a certain way countless times, and your mind naturally leans towards replicating that pattern.

However, the building’s unique layout calls for a different scaffold arrangement in this particular scenario. The Einstellung Effect might trick you into following the routine, potentially compromising safety and stability.

An Emergency Evacuation:

Suppose you’re responsible for designing an emergency evacuation plan for a factory. You’ve successfully implemented evacuation procedures before, and your past approach feels like a safe bet.

But the layout of this factory is distinct, requiring a tailored plan. If the Einstellung Effect holds sway, you might overlook critical escape routes or fail to account for specific hazards that demand unique evacuation strategies.

Hazardous Materials Handling:

You’re tasked with devising protocols for handling hazardous materials in a chemical plant. Your experience with similar chemicals could lead you to rely on tried-and-true methods.

However, the properties of these materials might vary slightly, necessitating modified handling procedures. The Einstellung Effect might steer you away from considering these subtle differences, potentially leading to accidents.

A touch of inspiration

Now, let’s empower ourselves against the Einstellung Effect in the realm of safety.

Safety is not just a set of guidelines; it’s a mindset, a commitment to preserving life and well-being. Embrace the power of mindfulness and critical thinking when confronting safety challenges.

Recognise when your mind is slipping into a default mode, and intentionally stand back to view the bigger picture.

Because every problem is a chance to stretch your creative muscles and expand your cognitive horizons, so, when faced with a safety problem, step back, set aside your well-trodden paths, and explore the hidden trails of innovation because the Einstellung Effect will be lurking in the shadows.


How to sell safety with the concept of fish

Master how to sell your safety ideas and inspire action

Safety professionals, business leaders and managers, lend me your ears!

Today, I want to share some guidance on how to master the art of influence and persuasion and sell your safety ideas in the workplace.

As safety advocates, our success lies not only in our technical expertise but also in our ability to sell our ideas and convince others to embrace safety initiatives.

Let’s dive in and explore practical strategies that can inspire action and create a safer work environment.

Understand your audience:

You must understand your audience’s perspectives, needs, and motivations to influence and persuade effectively. Put yourself in their shoes, empathise with their concerns, and tailor your approach accordingly.

Sell what’s in it for them.

Example: If you’re presenting a safety initiative to the operations team, focus on how it will increase efficiency, reduce downtime, and enhance productivity, as these are their primary concerns.

Build relationships:

Establishing strong relationships based on trust and respect is essential for influencing others. Invest time in building connections with key stakeholders, including supervisors, workers, and management. Show genuine interest in their ideas, concerns, and goals.

Example: Engage in casual conversations, attend team meetings, and actively listen to their experiences. Building rapport strengthens your credibility and makes it easier to sell your ideas.

Communicate with clarity and confidence:

Effective communication is vital when selling your safety ideas. Clearly articulate the benefits, risks, and steps required to implement your safety initiatives. Be confident and passionate about your message.

Example: Use simple, relatable language, avoid jargon, and support your points with real-world examples. Paint a vivid picture of your idea’s positive impact on safety and the organisation’s overall success.

Tell compelling stories:

Stories have a powerful impact on human emotions and can make your ideas more memorable. Craft stories highlighting the consequences of unsafe practices and the positive outcomes that can be achieved through your proposed changes.

Example: Share stories of real incidents that occurred and explain how your safety idea could have prevented them. Also, share success stories of other companies or teams that embraced similar safety initiatives and experienced significant improvements.

Use social proof:

People are more likely to be influenced by the actions of others. Use social proof by highlighting success stories, testimonials, or case studies demonstrating positive outcomes of your safety ideas. This provides evidence that others have embraced similar changes and reaped the benefits.

Example: Share statistics or testimonials from workers who have witnessed the positive impact of implementing safety initiatives. Show how their peers’ support and commitment have improved safety and overall performance.

Appeal to values and emotions:

Connect with the values and emotions of your audience. Frame your safety ideas to resonate with their personal beliefs, aspirations, and sense of responsibility.

Example: Emphasise how your safety initiative aligns with the company’s values of prioritising employee well-being, creating a positive work environment, and being responsible.

Be a catalyst for change

Influence and persuasion are powerful tools for safety professionals to effect positive change in the workplace. By understanding your audience, building relationships, communicating effectively, and appealing to values and emotions, you can inspire action and convince others to embrace your safety ideas.

Remember, your passion for safety is contagious, and through your persuasive efforts, you can create a culture where everyone is committed to prioritising safety. It’s down to you to embrace the art of influence and persuasion and become a catalyst for change, making your workplace safer and more fulfilling for all.

And in the words of Columbo, “Just one more thing”

Before we wrap things up, let’s pause for a moment and reflect on everything we’ve covered. We’ve journeyed through the ups and downs of this topic, exploring its nuances and gaining valuable insights along the way. But now, my friend, it’s time to take action.

I want you to ask yourself: What will you do with your newfound knowledge?

Safety Coaching and leadership development in construction

How to approach employees not following the safety rules and improve safety culture

Let’s set the scene.

Senior company executives are concerned that their sites aren’t being managed effectively and want to know what can be done to improve safety performance and develop the organisational safety culture.

It’s a busy construction site in the middle of the city centre, and employees are using noisy tools and equipment that creates dust, working from Stepladders, Scaffolding Towers, and the PPE provided to protect their health and welfare is not being worn, and the site rules are not being followed properly – Get the picture? Okay.

My immediate question is, “Why and how are these employees allowed to work in this manner?”

And my next question is, “At what point did the employees decide to work at risk and what were their reasons for this behaviour?”

What works for me

When engaging with the employees, I would approach them, introduce who I was, and ask them to talk me through what they were doing. I would ask about their background (where the employee is from, family, hobbies, etc.).

Next, I would ask about how long they have been working for the company and how long they have been on the site. Then I would ask about their co-workers to get an insight from their point of view.

I would also ask about their supervisor/manager to understand their relationships. And after getting to know them a bit more. I’d ask the employees about “near miss reporting” and what that would mean to them.

Unless there was an imminent danger to an employee… I would not address the PPE issues or the site rules directly with an individual. I would end the conversations there with the entire team.

Onto the management

Next, I would have a private conversation with the site manager/supervisor to understand their knowledge of and relationship with the employees and their knowledge of the company policy, site rules and procedures.

Part of that conversation is to bring to the manager’s/supervisors’ attention the at-risk observations and employees’ concerns, discuss safety coaching techniques that can help improve the organisational safety culture – and provide them with a leadership development opportunity and strategy to engage the employees, correct the issues, and lead.

Finally, followed by a feedback session with the senior executives to discuss the findings and the solutions offered, how these would work in practice, encourage them to get involved and commit to a continuous safety improvement program.

Does that sound interesting to you?

When you’re ready to improve your organisational safety culture with coaching and strategy get in touch using the contact form below.

Safety coaching, talks and briefings

Five Tips For More Engaging Safety Briefings

Briefings are crucial for creating an effective culture of safety and communicating the important messages colleagues need to hear.

Without proper communication, people can fall out of the loop with procedures, rules, and updates, which can, in turn, put them at risk of serious injury or worse. When people are on the same page, you expect things to run smoothly.

But safety briefings have a reputation for being, well, dull. When most people who aren’t safety managers hear those words, they immediately think of endless Powerpoints and the dreaded flip chart.

I’ve worked with safety managers for over 20 years. In that time, I’ve noticed that very skilled and knowledgeable individuals often struggle when it comes to communicating that knowledge to others. This is understandable, as these are two different things, and not all of us are born with the gift of the gab.

Unfortunately, the bottom line is that if people aren’t switched on and engaged when you’re talking about something important, they’re unlikely to take it in – even if it might save their life. They have to be hooked onto the topic instantly, and people will ask themselves, “what’s in it for me?” WIIFM, if it’s nothing, you’ve lost them before starting.

Thankfully, there are a few ways safety managers can change things up to communicate better, get people engaged with safety briefings, and ultimately ensure a safer workplace.

Tip 1: Know your audience

Although some might disagree, I believe that safety managers should be salespeople too. It’s no good knowing what needs to be done if you can’t communicate it in a way your audience can understand and buy into.

One of the most important things any salesman needs is understanding their audience. They can’t use the same pitch for everyone, as the needs and experiences of their client will depend on who they are and where they come from.

The same goes for health and safety. You will need to amend your ‘pitch’ depending on whether you present to leadership, middle management, or employees.

For example, briefings with those at the coalface will generally focus on daily exposure to risks, how to avoid them, and why they must follow procedures. Conversely, briefings with leadership should be more general and consider how changes to policy might impact the long-term running of the business.

Those in different business areas have other priorities, and your briefings need to reflect this.

Understanding the people you work with is integral to health and safety. You need to ensure you see colleagues as people, not statistics, as only then can you begin to communicate with them in a way that will be effective.

Tip 2: Minimise the Powerpoints

It can be easy to get carried away with PowerPoint. Unfortunately, too many safety managers pack everything into their presentations, resulting in verbatim repetition from slides that are far too busy, boring most people to the brink of sleep.

Powerpoints shouldn’t be your entire briefing. Instead, they should support your briefing with essential information, allowing you to expand on the subjects more engagingly.

According to Guy Kawasaki, former Apple founder and Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Powerpoints should adhere to a 10/20/30 rule. That means:

  • no more than 10 slides
  • no longer than 20 minutes total
  • and, perhaps most importantly, presentations should not contain text in a font size smaller than 30 points.

This ensures that you don’t try to cram too much information into the presentation itself, avoiding “death by Powerpoint”. Any information that can’t be included in your presentation should be given as a handout afterwards.

Tip 3: Watch your body language

We’re not all born presenters, and that’s fine, but one thing that it pays dividends to focus on is your body language.

Body language can be both conscious and subconscious and influences our interactions daily and during presentations more than you’d think. For example, the wrong body language, such as slouching, lack of eye contact, or crossed arms, can negatively influence your audience and turn them off.

Conversely, confident body language such as better posture and eye contact will engage people.

Body language is a huge topic, but you can start by paying attention to your physical actions during your next briefing and keeping an eye on how your audience responds to you. You might be surprised.

Tip 4: Get people involved

No one likes being talked at, and if your briefings consist of you standing at the front, droning on for an hour, you’ve already lost the battle.

Instead, you should make an effort to get people involved in the briefing. This can be small, such as getting people to guess answers or even using role-plays to illustrate new procedures. If people expect to be called on, they’ll be more engaged.

A very effective way to do this is to invite opinions about current safety processes as a sort of forum. This gives people a chance to share their thoughts and will, in turn, show that your business values their input. In addition, if people are involved in implementing rules from the start, they’re more likely to follow them.

Listening is a valuable weapon in any safety manager’s arsenal, and you should make the most of it.

Tip 5: Keep things moving

According to a study by Skipton Building Society, the average person has an attention span of just 14 minutes. However, in work meetings, they generally zone out after 13 minutes, like safety briefings.

Leading public speaking consultants and media training company Throughline Group suggest that a good presenter can hold an audience’s attention on a relevant topic for a paltry seven to 10 minutes. How long was your last presentation?

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should cut your briefings down to a few minutes, just that you should be conscious of attention spans and ensure regular transitions and breaks to keep your audience engaged. You can change things by moving to a new position, asking the audience a question, or just shifting to a new topic.

Remember that even the most talented presenters can only keep things moving for so long, so try not to spin the plates forever and drag your briefing out. Remember, people have other priorities, and if they feel that you’re taking up an unreasonable amount of their time, you’ll lose them.

These skills can be learned.

Many people assume being good at engaging others is something you’re born with. While it’s true people can be taken with a magnetic personality, there are plenty of tips and tricks you can employ to communicate more effectively in safety briefings and beyond.

My safety coaching package includes modules on how to communicate safety to engage others and, more importantly, keep them engaged, whether you’re talking to employees or employers. So if that sounds like something that might be beneficial to you, get in touch.

Construction workers

Replacing Paperwork With Peoplework: How To Engage Employees With Safety

Health and safety management can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle. Although most people understand that it plays an important part in keeping us safe, when there are a million things to do and little time to do them, it can easily fall by the wayside.

This is particularly frustrating for health and safety managers, who invest their time and effort into creating comprehensive safety processes to protect workers, only for employees to ignore them or cry ‘health and safety gone mad!’

That said, sometimes health and safety management can be ineffective not because employees aren’t willing to engage with it but because it’s not designed to be engaged with. Unfortunately, too many managers are clinging to the old ways of clipboards, official notices, and hundred-page Powerpoints.

Of course, this information is usually crucial: safety managers must communicate processes to employees. But, let’s be honest, no one really benefits from hour-long lectures on proper hi-viz usage or a fly-by clipboard assault because they forgot to reverse into a parking space that morning.

Instead, if safety managers want to see real buy-in from employees, they need to step away from the paperwork and focus on people instead, with different methods of getting staff engaged with safety.

Peoplework, Not Paperwork

In my two decades as a safety consultant, I’ve consistently extolled the virtues to my clients of seeing employees not as statistics but as people.

The Human Factor is one of the most unpredictable aspects of any safety process, as there are a million reasons why a person might act in an unsafe manner beyond laziness or malice. To overcome this, safety managers must understand their employees as people to better identify triggers for unsafe behaviour. You can read more about the Human Factor here.

By understanding – and communicating with – employees as people rather than numbers, you’ll find they are more willing to engage with your safety culture.

So, what are some of the best ways to ensure employees see health and safety as a benefit rather than a hindrance?

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement measures the dedication and commitment to your organisation. This goes beyond safety management and usually requires a culture where employees feel like their work is worthwhile and appreciated.

If employees are engaged, they are more likely to respond to and engage with the safety culture. With a personal interest in creating a safe place to work, they will make an effort to listen to safety managers and follow procedures at all times, not just when they are being watched.

To get employees to listen to what you’re saying, you need to go beyond the employees themselves and encourage those at a higher level to ensure everyone feels appreciated. The benefits of an engaged workforce go beyond safety culture, creating higher productivity levels, lower staff turnover, and more, and should be a priority for all businesses.

Seek Employee Input

Employee participation in safety is a crucial but often overlooked part of safety management. Fundamentally, people care more about something if they’ve had a hand in building it.

A great way to do this is by establishing Health and Safety Committees. Employees themselves take part in safety management and have real input in putting safety processes in place.

Health and Safety Committees are a powerful way to improve your safety processes. Although you might have an in-depth understanding of your own business, employees can bring a ground-level perspective and advise on safer and more efficient ways to carry out work.

In fact, Health and Safety Committees are now considered a basic requirement for any organisation seeking to achieve the ISO 45001 international safety standard.

It’s recommended that safety managers have minimal input in these committees to ensure a sense of ownership for employees and a more independent, official representation directly to management.

Acknowledge Employee Feedback

Not every employee has the time or inclination to be a part of a safety committee, but safety managers must make sure their input is still openly valued.

I have previously talked about psychological safety in the workplace and how important it is that employees feel comfortable bringing issues and potential safety failures to the top brass without fear of punishment. The last thing you want is an employee having a potentially fatal near miss, only to fail to report it because they’re expecting a black mark.

Crucially, when employees report potential safety failings, ensure you recognise their input and then immediately act on it. By not showing willingness to act on feedback, you’ll only serve to reduce the number of employees who think reporting is worthwhile.

Safety managers can’t be everywhere at once – and shouldn’t be – so creating a culture where employees feel listened to should be a priority for everyone.

Provide Relevant Training and Opportunites For Growth

You might think you’re already doing this quite well, but too many safety managers think they can get away with mandating a few online safety lessons a month and calling it a day. Not all training is relevant to every employee, and, let’s be honest, no one wants to sit at a computer watching a slew of safety videos from the 90s.

Again, this comes down to knowing your employees as people. By understanding each person as an individual, you can tailor training to them and provide opportunities for growth that actually appeal.

Work With People, Not Statistics

Once again, all this fundamentally comes down to leaving the clipboard in the office and actually engaging with the people who work in your business.

In reality, most people know that health and safety are there for their benefit. Still, it’s up to safety managers to portray safety in a way that emphasises and personalises these benefits to them.

I’ve worked with hundreds of businesses to create bespoke and effective safety cultures, and I can do the same for you. To find out more, drop me a message via the online form.

Health and Safety Culture

Making Your Safety Culture Subconscious

There are a wide variety of opinions when it comes to health and safety.

Some people think it’s a right royal pain, designed to make work harder and less efficient. Others – myself included – understand that health and safety is instead meant to protect workers, and instead encourage them to think about their safety at work and beyond.

Legal Obligation

No matter the opinion held, health and safety is unavoidable fact of professional life. Employers and employees are legally bound by a range of safety legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work Act, to ensure work is carried out safely and legally.

But let’s be honest, nobody likes being told what to do. ‘You have to do this because the government says so’ is hardly an effective rallying cry to get people on board.

The best way to sell the idea of health and safety, like everything, is on the benefits. This goes beyond employees’ physical safety, ranging from supporting mental well-being and more to increasing efficiency, reducing absenteeism, and even improving profits.

As much as we love toolbox talks, presentations, and bulletin board notices in health and safety, it can be challenging to get employees – and managers – to take health and safety on board, no matter how positively you spin it. Don’t get me wrong, these are crucial parts of the process but will only take you so far.

Before any process can be truly effective, it needs to become subconscious. So, for example, health and safety shouldn’t be something employees have to think hard about, but rather something they do, like a surgeon, washing their hands, or brushing their teeth in the morning.

So what can you do to make health and safety subconscious at work?

Understand Your Employees

Whenever I talk to clients about health and safety, I always bring up the Human Factor.

Here’s the thing. Right from when we’re born to the day we die, humans are fundamentally unpredictable. We might have our routines and favoured way of doing things, but there’s always a fine line between doing things a certain way and doing them entirely differently, depending on a range of factors.

It can be nearly impossible to predict which way we’ll go until it happens from the outside.

At work, this is even more obvious. No matter how effective or comprehensive your safety procedures are, you can’t guarantee employees will follow them. You can do safety briefings until you’re red in the face, but in the moment, it’s entirely likely your employees will choose to do things their way – whether due to arrogance or to save time – and everything falls apart.

A shocking report from Safety and Health Magazine says incident reports show that as many as 80% to 90% of serious injuries and accidents could be down to human behaviour.

So what can you do about it? I go into more detail in my blog about the Human Factor. Still, fundamentally, the only way to minimise this behaviour effectively is by understanding your employees as human beings rather than statistics and properly identifying the potential triggers of unwanted behaviour.

Once you have a more in-depth understanding of the people working for you and these triggers, you can more effectively communicate the safety message in a way they will respond to.

Start At The Top

For the most part, humans love to follow the leader. We’re suckers for trends and the latest fads because we like to feel like we’re part of the pack.

This is known as the ‘bandwagon effect’, and although ‘jumping on the bandwagon is sometimes used negatively, in the case of positive things such as health and safety, it can be a powerful tool.

The most effective way to start a bandwagon effect? Get those at the top invested in safety leadership coaching.

When employees see managers getting involved in health and safety and making a real effort to make it part of their day to day, they will want to do the same. If there is sufficient communication between upper management and employees, this positive reinforcement should trickle down and quickly become part of the culture.

For more information on just how effective safety leadership coaching can be, read my blog on the subject here

Make It Personal

Get rid of the faceless cartoons and stock photos in your safety training. Of course, this type of communication has its place, but the most effective way to get workers invested in safety is with a human focus, and better yet, a personal one.

Use real employees in your communications: people others know and recognise as friends or colleagues.

Emphasise just how important it is that people follow the rules to ensure their safety and the safety of others. The impact of accidents at work goes well beyond just those who work at the office, so a reminder that the people you work with every day have a life and family outside of work can go a long way.

Make Training Relevant

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but no one enjoys hundred-page PowerPoint presentations. Yes, it probably contains crucial information, but is it all relevant?

Whilst it can be hard to get face-time with employees, piling them into a room for three hours to stare at a presentation, of which 10-15% might only be relevant to them, is often less effective than doing nothing.

Instead – as above – get to know your employees as people and ensure you only deliver relevant safety information to them on a more regular basis. As a result, you’ll find they’ll be more engaged and less likely to nap.

Avoid Punishment AND Rewards

Whilst punishing and chastising employees for safety breaches is somewhat old hat these days (it’s more likely to lead to push back than any real change in behaviour), rewards for things like ‘X days without incident’ or ‘Y near-misses reported’ remain popular.

I advise against rewards for the simple fact that they can have unintended consequences, such as over-reporting.

Instead, recognition can be a far more valuable tool. Recognising the highlighted risk and the employee can be more effective in the long run and contribute to a more natural, habitual safety culture.

Making Safety a Habit

Fundamentally, making your safety culture subconscious means working directly with your employees and colleagues and portraying health and safety as a benefit rather than a hindrance. Don’t talk at them. Instead, talk with them, and lead by example.

I’ve worked with many businesses over the years to implement and maintain a healthy safety culture. If I can help you, send me a message on 07814 203 977, or use the contact form below.


Stop Accidents and near misses

Motivating workers to report near-misses

Recently, I ran a poll on my LinkedIn page, asking how easy managers felt it was to get workers to report near-misses. Out of 296 votes, 42% said they found it not so easy, with 34% saying they found it challenging. Just 24% of people reported that it was easy to get people to report close encounters at work.

Of course, a LinkedIn poll can’t be considered an in-depth survey, but I was surprised at the high number of people who said they were struggling to get their employees to report near-misses.

David Cant - Health and Safety Professional

Let’s delve a little deeper into the subject and look at ways to make the reporting of near-misses clearer and easier.

What is a near-miss?

To get your workers to report near-misses, you first need to identify what exactly a near-miss is. From the comments on my poll, I’ve come to realise that there are a few schools of thought on the subject.

I feel we need to start by differentiating between ‘accidents’ and ‘incidents’. In my experience, the difference between these is that an accident = an event that causes injury or death, and an incident = a breakdown in health and safety that did not result in injury but highlighted a flaw in health and safety.

This outlook is backed by the Health and Safety Executive, who we can safely assume are the arbiters of definitions within health and safety.

The section of their website, which discusses accidents and investigations, discusses various terms – including accident, incident, and near-miss – which can help clarify these various ‘adverse events.

According to the HSE, ‘accident’ can be defined as an ‘event which results in injury or ill-health.

Meanwhile, ‘Incident’ is broken down into two definitions, ‘near-miss and ‘undesired circumstance’.

  • near-misses are defined as ‘an event not causing harm, but which has the potential to cause injury or ill health.’
  • Undesired circumstances, meanwhile, are defined as ‘ a set of conditions or circumstances that have the potential to cause injury or ill health.’

The final term is ‘dangerous occurrences, which are defined as ‘one of a number of specific, reportable adverse events, as defined in the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)’. The Regulations use ‘near-miss and ‘dangerous occurrence’ interchangeably.

Under RIDDOR, employers and those in control of work are legally bound to report near-misses as ‘dangerous occurrences. Thankfully, the HSE has supplied a handy list of reportable events within the regulations under this definition. Some good examples include:

  • ‘Any explosion or fire caused by an electrical short circuit or overload (including those resulting from accidental damage to the electrical plant) which either:
    • (a)results in the stoppage of the plant involved for more than 24 hours; or
    • (b)causes a significant risk of death.’
  • And ‘the collapse, overturning or failure of any load-bearing part of any lifting equipment, other than an accessory for lifting.’

So, although some might think there is a lack of clarity in the term ‘near-miss, the HSE is pretty clear cut on what it sees as near-misses, as well as what needs to be reported. 

What are the reasons for not reporting a near-miss?

There is any number of reasons why an employee might feel uncomfortable reporting a near-miss.

They are afraid of blame

The worker might not have been following standard procedures, or perhaps previous events have led them to believe that they will face punishment for the incident, even if it wasn’t their fault.

They don’t believe it will happen again, or it wasn’t that bad

The worker might feel that it is unlikely to happen again and is not worth reporting. Many employees often feel a sense of invulnerability at work, unaware that simply being ‘good at your job’ or having plenty of experience doesn’t make you invincible.

They don’t believe anything will be done

If a company has a lax safety culture, employees might not think reporting near-misses is worth the effort. Unless you make a real effort to take employee concerns into account and act on them, this can become a real problem.

The only way to honestly know why employees are not engaging with the safety culture is by making an effort to get to know your workers as people rather than statistics. I’ve discussed the ‘human factor’ in previous blogs and what you can do to overcome the unpredictability of people at work.

Why is it so important that workers report near-misses?

Outside of RIDDOR requirements, employees must report near-misses as part of a greater health and safety effort.

Health and safety is more than just putting up notices on the board and filling out risk assessments. The only way to effectively push down accidents and safety failures in your business is by implementing a culture in which safety is a top priority for everyone, from directors to employees to sub-contractors.

Only by encouraging everyone to participate in this culture will you reap the rewards of a truly safe company. Employees must see their safety and the safety of others as a top priority.

Once you have staff openly reporting the near-misses and safety failures they see, you’ll be able to properly analyse the gaps in your safety strategy and improve it, avoiding potentially much more severe failures in the future. The more information you receive from those on the ground, the more data you have to work with.

Encouraging workers to report near-misses

So, what steps can you take to ensure your employees feel comfortable and correct in reporting near-misses?

Recognition over rewards

The first port of call for many health and safety managers looking to encourage a certain behaviour is incentives. This seems to be simple human psychology: offer a reward for a particular act.

However, these rewards often do not work the way you would expect them to and can lead to unintended consequences, such as over-reporting on frivolous things to get the reward.

Instead of taking the easy road with incentives, you should invest in recognition. When employees bring a near-miss to your attention, recognise both the risk and the employee. Take visible steps to close the gap in your safety systems, and do what you can to ensure that the employee feels like they are being taken seriously.

Highlight a particular near-miss in your safety briefings

Often, employees might fail to report a near-miss simply because they didn’t know they were supposed to report it. As I mentioned earlier, there can be some uncertainty around what counts as a near-miss and what doesn’t.

By taking a recent, or even theoretical, example – such as equipment failure or a close call with a forklift – you can clarify what employees need to watch out for and report.

Please keep it simple

Even employees engaged with your safety culture don’t want to spend hours filling out forms. They’ve got better things to do. A simple hotline or email address for near-miss reporting is all you need. The system must be short and straightforward if you have any hope of employees engaging with it.

Never punish reporting

Just as you should not over-reward, you also should not punish those who come forward to report safety failings. All punishing responsible employees will do is make them less likely to report near-misses in the future.

If the safety failure was the employee’s fault, you should make sure you do what you can to identify what went wrong and educate them to prevent it from happening again. Safety coaching is a fantastic alternative to disciplinary action.

A safer workplace

Once again, this comes down to a matter of encouraging a better workplace safety culture. By ensuring that employees are engaged and feel that coming forward is worthwhile, you will find that more and more employees report near-misses because they genuinely care about making their workplace safer.

I’ve worked with hundreds of companies over the years to improve their safety culture and get employees engaged. If you think I might be able to help you, send me a text or WhatsApp message on 07814 203 977, or get in touch via my contact form.

Coaching for safety leadership

Six step approach to safety coaching

Have you considered safety coaching when employees don’t follow the rules? It’s quicker than issuing disciplinary action, which is a managers first thought. Regular safety coaching can also help maintain employees safe working behaviour when you observe it being done.

As I tweeted the other day safety coaching does not take long.

A six-step approach to safety coaching you can try yourself

Step 1. Coach in the moment

Step 2. You go up to the worker

Step 3. State the behaviour you observed

Step 4. Ask open-ended questions. What? How? Why?

Step 5. Have a short conversation and listen

Step 6. End on a positive note and with praise

How a conversation can play out

Picture Bob working on a lathe.

Safety Supervisor – “Hey Bob, I noticed you were wearing eye protection while turning that component. What’s it like wearing safety glasses?”

Bob – “Absolutely fine. It’s not a problem.”

Safety Supervisor – “And you still followed the safe working procedure. So tell me, why is wearing eye protection so important?’

Bob – “Because if I didn’t wear the glasses, I might risk suffering an eye injury from a flying object.”

Safety Supervisor – “That’s great, Bob. Keep it up. You set a good example for others. Have a great day.”

Safety coaching takes minutes.

Having conversations to remind employees of the Why? helps maintain safe working behaviour and good habits.

I can help. If you are curious about how I can help you with safety coaching techniques, send me a message on 07814 203 977, or use the contact form below or if you prefer, book a 15-minute virtual call. to talk things through.

psychological safety in construction workplace

The Importance of Psychological Safety On Your Site

We’ve likely all had thoughts about ways to improve processes at work – in safety and beyond – no matter what role we’re in.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels comfortable enough to voice their opinions at work, either due to fear of judgment or the risks of punishment in poorly managed workplaces, where employees’ opinions are not high on the priority list.

In workplaces where potentially fatal risks are everywhere, such as in construction or manufacturing, ignoring or reprimanding workers for voicing their opinion can have a serious impact on that particular employee and their safety and wellbeing.

What is psychological safety?

Feeling comfortable enough to voice our concerns, whether at work or beyond, is called ‘psychological safety’. It is essentially the belief that our opinions and points of view will be respected if shared, and we won’t be mocked or punished for voicing them.

One of the leading voices in psychological safety, Timothy R. Clarke, said: ‘Psychological safety is about removing fear from human interaction and replacing it with respect and permission.’

In 2008, search giant Google carried out a comprehensive survey to find out what exactly makes an effective team. Carrying out 200 interviews with over 180 active Google teams, the researchers found that the highest performing teams had one thing in common: psychological safety. The team members felt comfortable sharing ideas and support in pursuing goals that might not have been a safe bet.

The benefits of psychological safety for businesses like Google are clear: they thrive on innovation and need employees to feel safe enough to voice risky ideas. What is the benefit of psychological safety in other, more traditional industries, such as construction?

Psychological safety in construction and industry

Construction and labour-intensive industries are a world away from Silicon Valley. Despite recent modernisation, these are generally traditional industries where ’this is the way we’ve always done it’ is a sacred phrase.

There has been a noticeable divide between the new blood entering the workforce with fresh, novel ideas and the conservative old guard, who can be resistant to change in recent years.

This resistance can take the form of managers and senior workers, who may be set in their ways, outright rejecting or even belittling potentially beneficial ideas favouring the tried and tested. Conversely, experienced workers who have utilised their wisdom to identify new ways of working might be told to stay in their lane. Businesses that do not emphasise supporting new ideas run the risk of limiting their growth and seriously impacting workers’ mental health, who will eventually either leave or become apathetic to their role.

More crucially, however, an atmosphere in which employees are ignored, mocked, or even disciplined for speaking up can, in many cases, even be dangerous.

If workers feel like their word means nothing, they might decide it’s not worth saying anything if they spot a potential danger or risky process. The input of workers on the ground every day is one of the most important tools in combating the human factor.

Is your team psychologically safe?

You can generally tell at a glance the general measure of psychological safety on your team. Do employees often come to you with things they’ve noticed or ways to improve processes? Have you noticed employees supporting each other in bringing their concerns forward?

There is a way to quantitively measure psychological safety if it’s a concern for you, using the Likert Scale. It would help if you asked your team the following questions, then ask them to anonymously score themselves on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being low and 5 being high.

  • On this team, I understand what is expected of me.
  • We value outcomes more than outputs or inputs, and nobody needs to look busy’.
  • If I make a mistake on this team, it is never held against me.
  • When something goes wrong, we work as a team to find a systemic cause.
  • All members of this team feel able to bring up problems and tough issues.
  • Members of this team never reject others for being different, and nobody is left out.
  • It is easy for me to ask other members of this team for help.
  • Nobody on this team would deliberately act in a way that undermines my efforts.
  • Working with members of this team, my unique skills and talents are valued and utilised.

A high score will mean you have a solid basis of psychological safety within your team. A low score indicates you have work to do but is the first step towards improvement.

How can you encourage psychological safety?

Ultimately, the best way to improve psychological safety on your team is to listen, encourage them to listen to each other, and make sure their input is implemented. You can follow the below steps to improve your team’s confidence and reap the rewards.

  • Show that you are listening and engaged. No one likes being ignored, or fobbed off with the standard ‘uh-huh’ or ‘yes mate, send me an email’. Take the time to listen, be present during meetings, and set time aside for employees to bring their ideas forward.
  • Show you’ve heard what they’re saying with a recap. If you’ve been listening, you should be able to reiterate their point. Discuss ways to implement their idea with them, rather than taking it straight to the higher-ups.
  • Avoid blaming and shooting the messenger. If something goes wrong, it’s too easy to blame the guy who brought it to your attention. If an injury occurs, investigate as a team, get the input of others, and ask what can be done to avoid similar future events.
  • Be self-aware and honest. Always be open about how you work and encourage others to do the same. For example, in training, identify who is a visual learner, who is a practical learner, and ensure they receive training most suitable for them.
  • Create a negativity free zone. Building sites and industrial zones are full of banter, and that’s usually fine. However, pay attention to the banter and keep it from getting out of hand. Similarly, if you notice constant negativity from one worker about their peers, nip it in the bud. Talk with them and let them know they need to be a team player and express their concerns professionally. Negativity can spread quickly and wreak havoc.
  • Always include your team in decision making, and be open with feedback. This is the most obvious way to encourage psychological safety, but perhaps the most important. Workers should feel their opinions are valid and affect the workplace: have open forums regarding major workplace changes or risk management. Let them express their ideas and work together, offering feedback and encouragement. When people are listened to, they speak up.

What are the benefits of a psychologically safe workplace?

Google found that psychological safety increased risk-taking, but of course, in cut-throat Silicon Valley, that’s a good thing. In construction and industry, the aim is to minimise risk to everyone. By encouraging psychological safety in your workers, you’ll have more information to work with and a solid foundation to manage risk.

Psychologically safe employees won’t fear bringing their concerns forward, allowing you to act on potential risks more quickly. Generally, you might find that those with daily experience on the job have plenty of ideas to improve and streamline processes, saving you time, money, and stress.

Overall, a psychologically healthy team is a safe team, and it’s something all employers should consider.

For more information, or if you require a safety and risk management consultant, let’s talk things through. Get in touch via the contact options below.

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