Why is it difficult for people to connect practicing safety at work to practicing it at home?
At work we have a process. Which means I have to stop and plan the job. That process pushes my thinking into what we call the “slow brain.” The slow brain is logical, it plans things, it thinks about steps in sequence. It’s a very methodical approach to safety.
But most of the time we’re functioning in fast brain mode because it’s more efficient and gets things done faster. When we are at home and have to do a task, we just want to get it done and over with. There are no triggers to say you’re not allowed to do that job without a work plan. Or a risk assessment. None of that is in place at home.
Instead I put the chair on the table to change a lightbulb and I get the job done, no safety problems. And then six months later another lightbulb goes out and I do the same thing. If I do that behavior 100 times and the consequences are always the same, I will continue to do that behavior that way.
How do you break that pattern?
You have to have a new behavior in order to change that lightbulb. I may get my son to help me and he’ll hold the ladder. If every time we do the job that way and we have positive consequences, that’s the behavior we’ll reinforce in the future. At work, safety is expected, encouraged, and reinforced and at home you can take at-risk behavior and get very positive rewards for it.
Change can’t involve one person — everyone has to be in it together. That’s really important when you’re engaging in a life threatening activity. You have to step back, plan the job out in proper sequence, and engage your family in the conversation.