Bad Habits Hurt

bad habits ladder

Do any of your co-workers have bad habits when it comes to safety? If you’ve worked with others for any length of time, you’ve likely observed some risky behaviors.  Maybe you’ve seen the same person taking risks more than once and thought to yourself, “It’s only a matter of time before Joe/Jane gets hurt.”  Even worse, a worker’s bad habit of taking risks and working in an unsafe manner puts everyone else at risk of being injured, too.

Assume Others Need Training/Awareness

While you might argue that one’s personal safety is his/her responsibility, ultimately, there is no good argument for looking the other way when it comes to safety.  Always assume the person does not realize the risks they are taking or doesn’t know a better way to accomplish the task.

By assuming the worker needs more training or awareness, we help them make an adjustment to work in a safer manner. That reduces the likelihood that they will injure themselves while performing the task.  Engage the worker by asking questions, such as, “Is that the safest way to do that?” or, “Have you ever been trained how to use that tool safely?.”

Stop Ignoring Hazards

When supervisors allow a known workplace hazard to exist, the hazard puts everyone around it in danger.   When those hazards exist for an extended period of time, workers become accustomed to them and will eventually ignore them, develop work-arounds, or even eventually forget the hazards’ dangers.  Essentially, workers develop a bad habit of ignoring or underestimating hazards.

Hazards go ignored for a long period of time for many reasons – though none of them are justifiable reasons.  Ignoring hazards usually results in normalizing the risky behavior, which is then passed on from one worker to another. Ultimately, this creates a poor safety culture in the workplace.

Reverse Bad Habits

When bad safety habits surface in your work area, take these steps to address and reverse them immediately:

  • Learn more about why the habit exists. Was it taught that way or did it develop over time?
  • Discuss worst case scenarios. Remember, the worker has done it this way many times with no negative outcomes.  Maybe he/she doesn’t know what could happen.
  • Train with habits in mind. For example: we instinctively reach to catch falling objects, so train workers to let heavy or sharp object fall.
  • Make safety a priority. Start with safety and end with safety in every training and task.
  • Make safety acceptable and hold everyone accountable, including upper management. If leaders lead by example, others will follow.
  • Review the steps it takes to do the job and look for hazards. If processes need to change, it means experienced workers must change their habits.   Involve workers in the solutions, and they will adopt the new way of doing things sooner.

Accept Responsibility

Who is responsible for your safety at work? If no one else takes the lead to keep you safe, start taking initiative. It affects you when others take risks with safety.  Bad habits eventually result in very serious injuries which will cause the facility to shut down during the investigation process, leaving you out of work.   Plus, if you get seriously injured, you can even lose the ability to work for the rest of your life.

When you speak up about hazards and risk-takers, you show that you care about your personal safety and the safety of others.  Accept responsibility for workplace safety. Make it a habit to work safe and avoid taking unnecessary risks.

Take Time, Take Action

There is always time to work safely, and you are never too busy to eliminate or mitigate the hazards in your work area.  The action you take could save a life, including your own!  Taking action to correct a dangerous situation is not always easy, but it’s certainly worth it. Stop waiting for someone else to step up. It’s time for you to make a change.

Think about the tasks you frequently perform and consider whether you practice good safety habits.  Make the commitment to yourself, your family, your friends, and your co-workers to always practice safe work habits.  Start working today to replace your own bad habits with good, safe ones.  It will help you feel empowered to help others change their risky ways.  If you can do, they can too!

Back to top