12th May, 2021
What are habits? Actions we often take, things we repeat, steps we make without thinking. Good habits help us grow. Small regular acts add up to massive changes in long-term results. And we can use this power to achieve things at home, at work, and even in health and safety.
You might often think about having good habits in your personal life. Maybe you have a morning ritual, and it might be so routine you don't even have to think about it anymore. Tasks like brushing your teeth in the morning, washing your face, making your bed and getting dressed have just become your way of life. It's not even a choice anymore, and the idea of not doing it doesn't even cross your mind.
These are your habits. Things that you repeatedly do. Often small regular tasks, but they can have a massive impact on your life.
Good habits have a positive impact. If you brush your teeth every day, you have good teeth, fewer fillings, less pain and a better smile. If you are in the habit of saving money for the future, you can worry less and have a more comfortable retirement. If you exercise regularly, you are more likely to keep healthy and active.
Bad habits have a negative impact. If you sleep in every day and you're always late for work, you might lose your job. If you spend all your money, you're more likely to get into debt or have money troubles. If you eat junk food every day, your health will start to suffer.
And habits at work can be just as important. If you have a monthly target and break it down into tasks, you're more likely to meet and exceed your goal. You make that target part of your daily work habit. Alternatively, if you spend your time focused on other things, you're likely to miss the target.
For example, if your target is 50 sales, you could make it a habit to approach ten potential customers each morning. This habit will help you reach your target, and also allow you to evaluate your progress throughout the month, and adjust it accordingly. Increasing or decreasing the number of people you approach each day to stay on target.
But what's all this got to do with health and safety?
Habits can be powerful in lots of different ways. We've discussed how good habits can make a big difference in your personal life, and even hitting sales targets. How can we take this power and apply it to health and safety?
If you make it a habit to put on your PPE when you arrive at work, you are better protected and less likely to suffer an injury. If everyone always signs in when they arrive on your site, you know if everyone is out safely in an emergency. If you do a talkbox talk each day, your team has a better awareness of each health and safety topic.
And your habits don't have to happen only once a day or at a set time. If you tidy up your workplace each time you finish a task, people are less likely to suffer slips, trips and falls. If you make sure each new person gets an induction, then the site rules are more likely to be followed. If you always carry out a risk assessment before doing a new task or activity, your work gets done the safest way.
Even something as simple as the daily habit of eating breakfast has shown an impact on reducing accidents.
With all of these routine or daily tasks, you might not see the results right away. And that's true of many habits. If you so some intense exercise today, you won't look different tomorrow. You're won't immediately be super fit either. But do it every day, and in time, the results will show. If you wear your hard hat today, you might not need it. Hopefully, you don't have things falling on your head every day at work. But the day something does go wrong, if you made it a habit to wear your PPE, your helmet is there to protect you.
And do you notice how everything seems to get much easier once it becomes a habit? For many people, running a marathon would seem impossible. But for someone that runs every day, it's achievable. You might not be able to play the piano, but if you practised every day, you could. Because things that are hard (or impossible) to do in one go are easy when you break them down. And when tasks become a habit, you make progress without even realising it.
With the power of good health and safety habits, you will notice the changes over time. In the same way that regular exercise builds up your fitness levels, your frequent health and safety actions build up your health and safety culture. At first, taking the safer option or doing the right thing is a choice. Over time, it becomes automatic - you've developed the habit. That's not to say that you will no longer need to put any effort into health and safety management, but the foundations will be rock solid actions that never get missed or forgotten.
Reducing accidents and making your workplace safer doesn't happen in one go. Creating a positive health and safety culture doesn't happen overnight. Small regular positive actions that get repeated often, grow into a safer way of working. Better health and safety can develop through the power of good habits.
Find out how the habit of near-miss reporting can stop accidents before they happen.
This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.
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