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Tips for Instilling Exceptional Safety Habits in Employees

How maintaining a stringent safety attitude can help minimize unsafe acts

Your company landed its first job with a local plant that is expanding. The job is important, because — as the plant expands — it will need not just new construction but also electrical testing and maintenance. Providing those services would be a very good arrangement for your company.

The plant engineer is fairly young. He has not worked at another plant, nor has he worked construction. He recently hired Bruce, a young electrical maintenance manager with a similar lack of background. Bruce is your primary contact.

The plant does not have an employee hardhat rule, nor does it provide hardhats for employees. Bruce keeps visiting your work areas to “check your progress.” Even though your crew is running both conduit and EMT overhead and hanging light fixtures, Bruce enters the work area without a hardhat. At first, the solution seemed simple. Just give Bruce a hardhat.

One of your crew used dry transfer lettering to put Bruce's name on the front of a hardhat. The back of it says “Electrical Maintenance.” It's nicely done, and everyone felt Bruce would be proudly wear that hat when visiting the construction area. But he shows up without the hat.

You asked him why, and he said it messes up his hair. When you explained how a stick of EMT or a raceway hanger could mess up his head, he said he'd be OK because he wasn't actually working in the area. “I'm just supervising.”

In response to this, you asked him if he'd noticed that any time he enters a work area without a hardhat, the crew stops working. “This isn't a time and material job, Bruce. We need you to stop interrupting the crews. All you have to do is wear the hardhat we gave you, and the problem is solved.”

Bruce gave you a look of annoyance and walked off. A few moments later, he walked into another work area without his hardhat, and the crew there duly stopped working — again.

Your boss told you not to make a big deal over this. He said to get Bruce on video stating he chooses not to wear his hardhat, so your company escapes liability. But that is not how the law works. Bruce's youth and inexperience put the burden of “superior knowledge” on you.

You can't follow your boss' directive, and you can't keep allowing the frequent work stoppages. So how do you solve this safety dilemma?

The fact the plant is expanding is a good hint the plant manager is doing a great job and thus is experienced. If that appears to be the case, have a talk with the plant manager. The goal is to get the plant manager to walk out into the work area to see what Bruce is doing.

Here is one approach that uses the “appeal to policy” persuasion technique.

Ask: “Is it this company's policy to knowingly permit unsafe acts in the work areas?” The plant manager will of course say it's not. Then offer the plant manager a hardhat and ask, “Can you tell me why we wear these while running heavy electrical raceway overhead?” If he gives the right answer, smile and ask him to come see what your crews are doing. “And you might want to see what your employees are doing also.” Suggest a time that coincides with when Bruce usually visits.

Instead of being the “bad guy,” let the plant manager do the safety enforcement. Not only will you get Bruce's compliance, but you will now have a much closer relationship to the main decision-maker at that facility.

TAGS: Training
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