Make safety a habit- Your behaviour can play a major role in the prevention of diseases, accidents and injuries.
To really make safety a daily part of your work routine, it needs to become a habit. We use habits in every facet of our daily lives. Habits play an essential role in safe behavior that can play a major role in the prevention of accidents and injuries. It means driving defensively, using seat belts in our vehicles, using firearms safely when hunting and applying safety practices at home, including wearing safety shoes when mowing the lawn; wearing safety eyewear while hammering nails; using lighter fluid to start charcoal grills, not gasoline; turning off a circuit breaker before replacing a light fixture.
We want everyone to develop the habit of thinking about safety during a work shift, on the way home, at home or on vacation. Thus, think about safety before you start any job when you go to do something that's potentially dangerous when putting on safety equipment and by making sure machine guards are in place. Think about safety several times; particularly, if you have to change what you are doing. Thereby unconscious behaviours can be changed; new routines can be set. And even our conscious minds can tell the difference between a good habit and a bad habit, between a healthy and an unhealthy routine. When workplace safety is a habit, it follows the same pattern: basic everyday precautions, like wearing PPE, become automatic. That’s why it’s so critical to promote good safety habits. Researchers have found that habits account for as much as 40% of human behaviour. Habits guide our most routine, unthinking behaviours, and good habits will guide them in good directions. Once safe behaviour becomes habitual, doing unsafe acts feels “wrong.”
Making safety habitual doesn’t happen overnight, building a habit requires constant reminders in the early stages. A positive, proactive approach will be more effective than a reactive, negative attitude. Making a habit of routine safety can yield greater situational awareness throughout the workday.
Ask yourself the following questions at work and at home:
1. Do I know the safety procedures for this job or task? Are they adequate? Do I really understand them?
2. What personal protective equipment do I need? Is it in good condition? Is it adequate?
3. What tools and other equipment do I need to do the job safely? Are they the correct ones? Are they in good condition? Do I know how to use them?
4. Are there other risks to my safety or the safety of others? What if something happens quickly or unexpectedly? Do I know how to respond to avoid injury?
5. How often should we have thoughts about safety?
Signs of Good Safety Habits
- Everyone helps keep the work environment tidy and organized
- Everyone is comfortable reporting unsafe working conditions up the chain of command
- Every one who is required to wear PPE is wearing it the right way—and it fits properly
- Everyone knows where safety equipment is located
- Everyone who handles heavy objects uses proper lifting and carrying techniques
- Everyone knows that their organization is committed to safety at the highest levels and can see posters in the breakroom or on the job site demonstrating this commitment
- Everyone knows where to go and what to do in an emergency
- Everyone is aware of hazardous chemicals in the work area and knows where to find the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)
- Workers take responsibility in cleaning and maintaining tools and equipment
- Workers pause to drink water every 20 to 30 minutes to prevent dehydration
- Workers refuse to use fraying or improperly grounded extension cords
- Workers use available fall prevention and fall protection when working at heights
- Workers pay close attention to what’s behind and around them when operating moving equipment
- Workers lockout machines when necessary
- Workers sweep up metal shavings and put them in containers that they empty frequently
- Workers avoid loose clothing, and they tie up their hair if it’s long
- Workers store solvents and other flammables in proper containers
- Workers inspect their forklifts before using them, and they use them with care
The importance of developing safe work habits, on the job, is that we avoid certain exposures even if we are not thinking about the particular hazard. Under most of the circumstances, safe work habits really become life-saving.
Potential hazard examples, and the safety habits that may protect us from being injured, are listed here:
- Hazard Example: Catch points/shear pointed objects having sharp corners, splines, teeth or other rough shapes capable of catching the operator or work clothing (ex. rotating drills, reamers, spline shafts, broaches, keys and keyways, nails, shears, and dies. SAFETY HABIT EXAMPLE: Wear proper clothing. Make sure guards are in place and used. Remove nails and staples from objects.
- Hazard Example: Squeeze points. These are created by two objects, one or both of which is in motion as they move toward one another (ex. machine tables at extreme traverse position forming squeeze points with other machines, walls, and building columns). Materials being moved on power conveyors create squeeze points with fixed objects along a conveyor. SAFETY HABIT EXAMPLE: Maintain a minimum clearance of 18 inches between moving and fixed objects. Relocate equipment where necessary. Maintain proper guarding. Maintain sweep bars equipped with shutoff switches in the squeeze area.
- Hazard Example: Run-in points (ex. belts and sheaves, chains and sprockets, gears in mesh, rolls, conveyor chains, ropes and pulleys, cable and drums). SAFETY HABIT EXAMPLE: Maintain and use proper guarding. Understand the operations of equipment. Never operate or work close to unfamiliar equipment.
The human mind is one of the fastest processors of information. To think about all of this need only take a few seconds. Developing everyday safety habits can keep you injury-free throughout the year. Inculcating safety habits is a pattern of repeated behaviours or practices that do not only create consistency but can also improve awareness, which is the first step to change.
Article by Dr.Yashoda Tammineni,
HSE, HOD at NIFS