Question People's Rationale, Not Their Sanity

September 23 2018
By: Terry L. Mathis

I often hear leaders and senior safety professionals complain that they have eliminated all the accidents except those caused by stupid actions. While there are exceptions, I don't generally find accidents to only happen to people with low IQs. It is easy to assert that people do stupid things if you don't really know why they did them. Too many accident investigations, safety observations, and safety coaching sessions seek to correct rather than understand. Most often, workers are influenced toward their course of action by factors in the environment or culture. Even if you correct their actions, these influences can potentially cause the same actions in the future with other workers.

Question People’s Rationale, Not Their Sanity

When you hear a supervisor shout across a shop floor, "Hey, stupid, don't do that!" you have just witnessed a failed attempt to improve safety. A worker has been prompted to ignore the influences that led to his choices and do things another way. If people do things for a reason, we need to identify those reasons and work on them, not just the individuals who were influenced by them.

Terry L. Mathis

Terry Mathis, Founder and retired 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.

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