As a safety professional I rely on participatory management to push programs and make change happen. Safety is everyone's responsibilities and doing your part is an expectation. While it sounds great many times messages get confused and the result is anything but what we want. In our attempt to force employees to not get hurt the opposite commonly occurs and injuries happen.
As accidents happen we ask why an employee put themselves at risk and got hurt when we clearly told them not to get hurt. Did they not listen, did they want to get hurt or just not care? Or did we send mixed messages and confusing requests that encouraged rushing and mistakes? Normally the second example is closer to the root cause but never resolved. Instead we let the employee know that they did not act safely, leading to an accident and discipline them for the error.
This may work in the short term but if you just discriminate the employee the problem will reoccur at some point. This was most recently explained to me in a very simple way. You are now practicing for the next injury to occur by not correcting the real cause. By not addressing the root cause you are only fooling yourself and practicing for the next injury as you continue the same behavior.
While there are many systems and approaches to address behavior change a starting point may be a clear and focused safety message. A clear message makes it easy for people to remember and if delivered properly can change at risk behavior. Providing a low-cost high reward opportunity to push your programs and reduce your injuries.
Consider utilizing a simple message that is very repeatable. An example might be Zero Injuries – Yes we can. This is very short, easy for anyone to repeat and couples a goal with an action. Once you have your short simple safety message you have to find simple ways to keep in front of all employees. One idea is to have all supervisors repeat the message before each shift. An example from the show Hill Street Blues that ended each pre-shift meeting with let's be careful out there. Anyone who watched that show knows that line and remembers it.
Finding many ways to automatically repeat your simple message will get people to automatically remember it over time and naturally try to make it happen. The natural progression from an impossible goal to a repeatable simple message that employees remember will help form a habit of safe behaviors over time. Getting employees to make better decision and understand what you expect.