Would you agree with me that it is good to be safe on the job? Of course you would! No one wants to be injured…on the job, or anywhere else for that matter. So, why isn’t every work place a safe place to work?
Maybe it’s because we don’t have enough safety rules. “But,” you say, “we have lots of safety rules.” Well, maybe we don’t have the right rules. If we have all of the right rules, no one will get hurt, right? But, wait a minute… Is everyone always following all of the rules we already have? No? But, why not?
I guess maybe we have enough of the right rules, but we just don’t enforce them well enough. We need to enforce our safety rules more strictly. Oh, but why should we have to be concerned about that? Why should we have to enforce rules at all? No one wants to be injured? Why wouldn’t everyone just follow the rules? Why do they have to be enforce?
Finally, we are coming to the crux of the problem. Rules just aren’t the key to good safety, are they? Rules alone will not prevent accidents. Rules can be posted…and talked about…even memorized, but it’s what you do with the rules that will make all the difference.
Its not that rules are not important. They are important! It’s just that we don’t always follow the rules, even if we know that they are good rules and even if we are in agreement with the end result that the rules are intended to produce. If we did, there would be no need for policemen to give tickets for traffic violations. We just wouldn’t go faster than the speed limit.
Yes rules are important. We need them to help create safe working areas. If we would just follow them we could prevent many accidents and injuries. But we don’t follow them. So we have to ask, why don’t we follow the rules if they are good and important and will keep us from being injured?
The answer to this question involves an important topic that we have not considered yet. The reason we don’t follow the rules about safety is that our attitude toward the safety rules is not good. Really, the problem is our attitude toward the whole topic of safety.
It is true that no one wants to get hurt, but often we don’t really think it could happen to us. We don’t want an eye injury, but those safety glasses are uncomfortable and its hard to see with them because they get fogged up. “And, besides,” we may say, “what’s the big deal. I’m being careful. Nothing is going to happen to my eyes.” But, then it does.
Yes, our attitude toward safety is just as important… maybe even more important… than the rules.
So, let’s think for a minute about attitudes. What are attitudes? What kind of attitudes do we want to have? And, how does one go about changing his attitudes, anyway?
Someone has defined attitudes as habits of thought. The way we habitually think about something is our attitude toward it. We may not be consciously thinking all the time about safety, for example, but what we think when we do think about it will form our safety attitude.
What do we want our attitudes toward safety to be?
Well, first let’s say what we don’t want them to be. We don’t want to think that we don’t have to be concerned about safety because we have done the same job before a thousand times. Accidents always happen when we least expect them. After all, if we thought an accident was about to happen, we would do something different to prevent it, right? So, we want to form the habit of thinking that it is always important to be concerned about safety.
We don’t want to think that accidents just happen to other people. We must realize that we are “the other guy!” Accidents happen to people who do things in an unsafe manner, or those who use unsafe equipment, or those who are around someone else who thinks that safety is not important. We want to form the habit of thinking that we must do the right thing in order to protect ourselves and those around us.
We definitely do not want to think that we have the ability to quickly react to dangerous situations as they arise. We just do not react that fast! Accidents happen very very quickly. We didn’t know we were going to fall, we just found ourself on the floor. We didn’t mean to have our finger under the blade of that machine…it just happened so quickly we didn’t have time to react. We want to form the habit of thinking ahead so that we can be sure we are working safely at all times, avoiding dangerous situations if at all possible.
So, how does one go about changing his attitudes?
Since attitudes are habits of thinking, the question really is how to change habits. Habits are formed by repitition. The more we do something, the more likely it is that we will do the same thing again the next time a similar situation arises. We get used to doing things in a particular way and we tend to continue doing them that way. If we want to change a habit, we have to deliberately choose to do things in a way that is different from the way we usually do them. Habits of thought, attitudes, are the same way. If we want to develop good attitudes toward safety, we must deliberately choose to think and respond to situations in a way that is consistent with good safety. Maybe we will have to wear safety glasses even if they are uncomfortable and inconvenient because we know there is a good reason for doing so. We choose what we think, and we must choose the right thoughts every time until it becomes a habit. Then we will have developed a “good attitude” toward that aspect of safety.
Safety rules are never going to be good enough unless we approach them with the attitude that they are important not because they are rules, but because they are right.
None of us want to be injured, and none of us wants to cause someone else to be injured, so lets work together to form the attitudes, the habits of thought about safety, that will keep us all safe and injury free.