Workers that accept common misconceptions about safety put themselves at risk of injuries, illnesses, and even fatalities… and often times, misconceptions come across as excuses for not working safely.
While it might be easy to let excuses roll off your back, as an employer, it’s your responsibility to correct the thinking surrounding these common misconceptions.
“Safety is boring.”
This one is classic. Sitting in training for a few hours every year isn’t anyone’s idea of “having fun.”
How to correct
There are a few ways to go about correcting this erroneous attitude about safety, but choosing the best way to administer training is a big part of it. Will training be all completed online? Will all your workers be all in a classroom? Who will be the one presenting? Is there a hands-on section of training to learn more practical knowledge and application skills?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you build a program for your employees that they might even find mildly entertaining. You might even want to try getting lunch catered in or hosting a post-training “happy hour.”
“Doing things by the book takes too much time.”
In the short-run, this can actually be true, so explaining it to workers requires some big-picture thinking.
How to correct
Try explaining the long-term benefits with quick examples:
It does take an extra few seconds to grab a respirator and put it on. Not to mention, there was that whole fit testing thing that came before that.
You know what takes longer, though? Filling out incident reports. Heading to the hospital. Taking time off of work… all things that could happen with a workplace injury.
“Safety equipment is too expensive.”
Any manager can appreciate a prudent employee, but safety should always be built into the budget with no exceptions.
How to correct
Clearly communicate that having safety equipment readily available for employees keeps them safe, and that’s your #1 priority. Another way to spin it is by telling them that proper PPE might even keep them out of the emergency room, which could end up spending your company thousands of dollars. Would that really be worth not stocking up on a $100 box of gloves to last for the year?
“I don’t need training.”
“I don’t need training. I’ve been doing this for years.” Experience certainly comes into play when it comes to avoiding workplace accidents, but bad habits can form really quickly with this kind of thinking.
How to correct
Don’t let bad habits become old habits, because old habits die hard.
Make sure more experienced workers are engaged during training and consider giving them some responsibility in passing their knowledge along to younger workers. Hold regular toolbox talks to keep everyone updated on the latest OSHA rules, regulations, and recommendations.
“I won’t ever get hurt at work.”
This misconception is just… false. This statement is a worker admitting complacency.
How to correct
This one can be a really hard way of thinking to overcome, which is why human-centric stories seem to get the point across. Try telling some safety stories.
An example: I worked in a retail environment for about 7 years. It was a safe place; I’d never seen anyone get hurt there, besides maybe a stubbed toe here and there. But one day I was folding some clothes and my hand got caught on a sharp piece of metal sticking out from the fixture. My knuckle was sliced open, and I was immediately sent to the ER to get stitches. My safe place immediately became a place to be much more aware of my surroundings.
“Training isn’t worth the time off from making money.”
Employees that keep an eye on your bottom line can be your greatest asset, but can also become a safety liability. To them, nothing ever takes precedence over billable work.
Show them how an injury impacts the bottom line on a project. On smaller-scale projects, a major injury could blow your entire budget… and it can be prevented with the help of a little bit of education.
“My equipment has enough safeguards, it can’t hurt me.”
Equipment might appear safe, and usually, it is. It’s probably marked with precautions to take while operating it and comes equipped with safeguards galore, but there’s so much more to safe operations.
Remind your operators that they aren’t invincible. In addition to telling safety stories, keep them polished up on how to safely operate the equipment, lock out/tag out procedures, and simple maintenance.
“I don’t need to report minor injuries.”
Once one person “forgets” to report a cut they got on their hand, more employees tend to catch on and can shove that priority to the wayside.
Remind workers that they won’t be apprehended for reporting even the smallest incidents.
Secondly, communicate the importance of comprehensive record-keeping; it’s the only way you will pinpoint the underlying causes of repeated accidents. Is it the time of day (are your people working off only loads of caffeine)? Does your equipment need maintenance? Could the weather be a factor?
“I’ll never use the information I get in training.”
Maybe not, but the information still needs to be accessible.
Empathize with them. Training hasn’t always been fun for everyone, and hopefully, they won’t need to use some of the training in bloodborne pathogens class or First Aid.
However, pulling out statistics can help to communicate the importance of trying to absorb the information they get in training. For example, falls are still the #1 cause of construction industry fatalities. Proper training and equipment could have saved hundreds of lives over the years.
“It won’t happen to me.”
This is a golden opportunity to pull out cliché “better safe than sorry!”
If you have questions about how to beef up your current safety plan, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.