February 12 2017
By: Terry L. Mathis
Some industries have risks specific to their unique work environment, equipment or processes. Having specific rules and procedures to mitigate those risks can be extremely useful, but potentially limiting. While rules and procedures teach workers to follow protocols to minimize risks, this type of learning applies to very specific tasks in which variations either do not occur or have been addressed. In some industries, repetitive tasks are remarkably similar and this approach works well. However, if there is much variation in circumstances around tasks, workers may not have gained the ability to analyze new risk scenarios and develop strategies for dealing with them. Memorizing rules and procedures is a completely different cognitive function than problem solving. Developing habits of how to do tasks can override the problem-solving mode and replace it with habitual (learned) behavior.
Getting workers to form good safety habits for repeated tasks is a strong strategy as long as it also addresses the "what-if" scenarios most likely to occur, and helps workers develop the skills to recognize and address non-standard risks.
Terry Mathis, Founder and CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.