Tag Archives: Changing health and safety landscape conference

A change can do you good

27 Jun

We’ve been talking a lot recently about habits and routines in the Safety Management office. There have been reasons for this. The British Safety Council campaign, Changing habits of a lifetime, reported its first results; we’ve been talking about changing our scenery as summer holidays spring to our minds; and there is our conference in London on 6 July regarding the changing health and safety landscape.

It got me thinking about routines and habits and why we get into those that we do. There are many little routines which we live through every day, so ingrained in us we hardly think about them: putting the kettle on before stepping into the shower; a free newspaper in the hand before stepping onto the train; the unconscious greetings you make while arriving to work; the food left out for the cat; the alarm clock set before sleep comes.

The psychology of our habitual behaviour says that we do many things automatically because it is easier. Research psychologist, and author of Sources of Power, Gary Klein claims all behaviour is automatic, unproblematic and successful. A lot of our habits don’t cause us any problems and as everything we do automatically usually turns out all right, we don’t give it a second thought and so keep doing it.

The only problem is when these habits are working around hazards. Habits and hazards can only go together when the habits are good ones. This is why our Changing habits of a Lifetime campaign promotes such an important message. It’s about understanding the bad habits that have crept in; then educating and righting them. Not putting on the right personal protective equipment: for example, wanting to get a job done quickly and forgetting your goggles; or sitting in an uncomfortable chair because it’s what you’ve always done; or ignoring the rising panic as stress sets in: these are all bad habits which lead to bad practice and can result in workplace injury, ill health or even death.

As human beings, we are quite adaptable, especially when the changes are small and we can see their purpose. We don’t like change for change’s sake, and we can resist intervention when it’s perceived to come from someone ignorant of the situation. This is another importance aspect to our Changing habits campaign: each phase is coming from experts in the field and is brought about by listening to those who work in it: you. We wouldn’t want to be changing habits otherwise.

Viktor Frankl, survivor of the Holocaust and psychiatrist wrote this about change: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” That means sometimes we have to right wrongs in our own behaviour, accept new customs and situations and ways of working. If, ultimately, the changes from our campaign save a life, reduce injuries and make people more aware of their working habits, both good and bad, it has started well on its long road.

I also look forward to meeting many of you at our conference on 6 July and debating the changes in the health and safety landscape and how they might affect you.