Workers are different, both individually and as a collective. This is why, in the art of safety discipline, it is importaatnt to have several tools in your toolbox to effect the necessary discipline – and there has to be a willingness to use any of the tools at any given time.
Christopher Goulart wrote an interesting piece in a recent issue of Professional Safety magazine that talked about the importance of safety discipline in the workplace, and he wrote about the various tools that are available to safety officers, supervisors and managers to encourage safe actions and behaviors.
We have been dissecting the article in the last several posts, including a couple deeper dives into some of the tools that Goulart refers to in the article, and this final installment will discuss a little bit about the last tool in a discipline toolkit – motivation.
Motivation is not about someone else lighting a fire under you – it is about finding the right incentive to light your internal fire and have passion about doing what is right for you. In this specific case, it’s about the right thing in safety, even though many times it is harder than cutting corners here and there.
When it comes to safety, motivation can be about proactive incentives and inducements to have safe actions and behaviors . Goulart mentions an example of one of these motivations from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which was looking to establish an online, anonymous reporting system for various incidents and events.
To help encourage self-reporting, the FAA introduced its Air Traffic Safety Action Program by giving an incenntive – those who self-report incidents, near-hits and other events that may potentially lead to future crashes by a certain deadline will not see any negative repercussions.
In other words, tell us the ttruth now about what happened, and we won’t punish you for any errors that were made. No fines, no suspensions, nothing, as long as you come clean quickly.
Considering the amoutns of fines, and the potential license suspension of pilots and what iit means to their livelihoods, the FAA’s incentive served as great motivation, as reporting of ‘at-risk’ events jumped by half and improved the culture of safety in the aviation industry.
The key is to get workers to understand responsibility when it comes to safety, and to promote a sense of shared accountability; that can help motivate employees to do the right thing because there is a more positive, proactive approach. If there is blame and punishment thrown around fron not doing something, then the chances are more likely tha the very thing punished will continue.
Motivation is about being positive, to find ways to encourage people to do what you want them to do with the perception of improving their own well-being and the well-behing of others, rather than coercing them into doing what you want them to do for risk of adverse consequence. Another big step from motivation compared to punishment is in the process of learning; when you punish for a mistake, a person is less liely to make that mistake or take that action that could lead to trouble, while motivation to report a mistake or action that leads to a problem can actually serve as a learning opportunity for all involved – even safety officers can learn that the action they might ask or require a worker to do may prove itself to be dangerous and adjustments should be made.
Safety is about education, and motivation to do the right thing but make mistakes is far preferable in a learning environment to punishing for any and all mistakes regardless of context. Something to keep in mind moving forward.