11 Dec Does your safety programme give staff something to strive for?
They say you’ve cracked this culture thing when people use what they’ve learned to behave safely at home. That’s why my heart was filled with pride last week as I watched my middle son strimming the vast quantities of nettles in near our new house, in full PPE.
Zach’s enlisted on an apprenticeship programme in land management and went through their induction on how to use agricultural machinery safely and manual handling, and he‘s now got a City & Guilds in use of pesticides and nap sack sprayers. Pretty intense, considering it’s his third week and he only goes into college twice a week. Most companies struggle to give full-time employees more than a couple of hours induction, some even waiting weeks for their first health and safety training!
What’s interesting though, is how much the training has stayed with Zach. If you asked him, he’d struggle to even recall a single lesson from school! But this has really become ingrained in how he works. “You can’t do strimming without it. It wrecks your legs and face if bits jump up” he replied when I praised him for wearing PPE.
Part of the reason is motivation
Behind all this is that Zach wants to gain an apprenticeship with a real employer, so working safely and efficiently not only demonstrates employability, it looks good on his CV to prospective employers too. So he’s personally invested in doing things properly because the consequences either way are clear – he’s empowered to make the right choice.
This from the lad who refused to wear his cycle helmet under any circumstances even when it meant not being able to take his cycling proficiency test in primary school.
Like many people, Zach’s an experiential learner
He has to touch the hot iron or the wet paint no matter what you say. He’s learned first-hand what the pain of skinning half your shin from skateboarding feels like so now he can make his own judgements about it. Some people are just like that, but they also make the most powerful advocates for doing things safely – because they’ve got the stories to back up their message.
Zach’s actually more sensible now he’s older. Perhaps driving traction engines with older enthusiasts gave him role models to look up to, who always wore their safety boots, gloves and goggles with pride. He even had his first pair of safety boots aged eight and hasn’t worn anything else since – much to his girlfriend’s dismay whenever she manages to drag him to the shops!
Something to believe in
So to reach the point where your staff take best practice home with them, you need to give them a reason, a cause, to believe in. One with personal, meaningful outcomes to strive for, which encourage them to make the safest choice. How you influence and train them comes down to how they learn, so it’s up to you to adapt your message to what captures their attention, whether that’s through theory, practical experience or even social interaction.
Above all though, as every parent will know, praise and support (and bottomless patience) speed up that process and make the journey more memorable and rewarding. The sooner you do it, the better.
I’m really proud Zach has a head start – it’s filled me with hope that we’re raising a new generation of safety conscious, empowered workers.