The 3 Reasons Not To Follow Safety Rules

There are 3 times when we are less likely to follow safety rules. These are:

1. When we see other people break the rules and getting away with it. (Monkey see, Monkey do.)

2. When our managers hold employees accountable and then break the rules themselves. (Do as I say, Not as I do.)

3. When we don’t understand why we are following certain rules. (Why should I listen to you?)

The worst example of number 1 is when an employee arrives from another workplace which has a higher standard of safety. The poor safety culture will stand out like dogs-balls to them, yet they will arrive with a mind set to fit-in. And yes, this may mean dropping their own standards in order to fit in.

The classic example of the second point is when managers are separated from factory workers, but have to occasionally transit through the factory to get some work done, and don’t wear the necessary safety equipment or PPE required of workers in the building. If this is the case then 2 things jump out. 1. the poor example set but also 2.a poor safety system. The system should capture managers equally well as visitors to the plant, and should all go through an appropriate level of induction and issuing of safety equipment. What a manager DOES says a lot more than any pretty words.

For point three, remember that most people do not want to break rules, but need to be instructed into the benefits and reasons to follow the safety rules. Ways to do this include:

1. Make the safety policies clear and understandable

2. Make OHS part of your employments competencies and set the benchmark expected within the workplace

3. Make performance appraisals include safety measures and performance. What you measure becomes important to the employees!

4. Train people how to recognise hazards and risks and make assessment i.e. deal with the issue at a local level in an informal way. Stop, think, talk, deal with the issue.

5. Train people how to formally raise the safety issue with management

Of course, rules may still be broken but this should be the exception rather than the rule. (sorry, bad pun I know). When a mistake is made which is not intentional this is the opportunity to improve the system. Some guidance, teaching and reminding is important in the first instance. Don’t go barking at them like a Militant prison guard, unless of course the mistake is happening frequently. Check your instructions are working – If the person is not learning, and your methods and system are right then maybe the work is the wrong type for some people. When I was learning to fly with the Air Force we called it ‘Getting Chopped’. However, we knew the rules going in and the standards expected so while disappointed, no one as to blame. The trick then is to allow people to be able to put up their hand and seek instruction when a safety mistake is made, but do not allow mistakes to go unchecked.