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Tool Talk: Habits and Safety


We all have habits that we follow on a daily or weekly basis that have a major effect on our lives, and they also affect our choices we make at work. These habits that we have on any given day could affect how we follow a safety procedure.




Let’s think about the habits you follow every single day when you wake up. Do you hit the snooze button once or twice every morning? Do you cook yourself breakfast in the morning or do you stop somewhere to grab a bite to eat on your way to work? These choices that you make everyday from the point you wake up to right now during this safety meeting are daily your habits. According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, there is what he calls a “habit loop”. Habit loops are a three part process: the first part of the process is the cue or trigger, the second part is the routine or behavior itself, and the third part is the reward. For example we will look at you repeatedly pressing snooze on your alarm clock. The trigger of this habit is your alarm going off. The behavior is you hitting the snooze button and the reward would be getting more sleep. If this is a habit you would like to break, then you would need to change one of the three components; which is simply not hitting snooze when your alarm goes off.


There are other ways you can help yourself break this habit of not hitting the snooze button. For example, changing the location of your alarm to maybe across the room. This would force you to get up out of bed to go turn off the alarm. The alarm going off is still the trigger, but you have changed the behavior of your habit by simply getting out of bed, which in return is helping you to not fall back to sleep. Another option to help break or change a habit is by experiencing a different reward. For example, getting up earlier, which leaves you more time in the morning and you do not have to rush to work. By getting up earlier your new rewards could be making yourself breakfast, watching the news or some other tv show, taking a longer shower, which ever it is this new reward alone could lead you to curve the habit of hitting snooze. Not all habits are easy to break, but you get the point.


Some of your habits, like hitting snooze, could potentially lead you to consistently take shortcuts and not follow safety procedures. Just like your daily habits there are times where you follow certain safety procedures everyday and there are others that you may not always follow. For example, let's say you are a welder, and the procedure you decide to follow everyday is to complete your JSA, but at the procedure you choose not to do everyday is that you sometimes forget to not lower your helmet while welding. What makes you decide to follow one safety procedure over the other? It could simply be because you have to turn in your JSA report at the end of each work day so you don’t get disciplined by a supervisor for not completing it. In this case the trigger is work, the behavior is completing the JSA, and the reward is not getting yelled at. Let’s look at not lowering the helmet while welding. You may not lower your helmet while welding because it is hard to see through and you know that your supervisors rarely check in on you and your work. The trigger is that you cannot see, the behavior is not putting your helmet, and the reward is you can see and get the job done quicker. In your mind there are no negative consequences yet that have happened from leaving your helmet up, but the second you burn yourself, your habit will change and you will start putting that helmet down while you weld.


Make sure you pay attention to your daily habits. Some habits have a positive outlook on your day where others can be negative. By simply hitting snooze multiple times can leave you even more tired and potentially lead you to break a safety procedure. Take a step back and look at your daily habits when you wake up and the habits you have throughout your work day. By addressing your habits behaviors, triggers, and rewards, you will be able to determine which ones have a positive effect and which ones have a negative effect on your day.

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