Dumb and Dumber
The evidence is clear—men are, on average, more likely to take risks than women. Sometimes risk is a good thing, leading you to stretch yourself, advance your career, or discover new ways to solve a problem.
But some risk is just plain dumb. Like refusing to wear a hardhat when working on a multilevel construction site, or not wearing gloves when handling hazardous material.
A new study by graduate student Hazel Hollingdale looks at risk-taking in male-dominated, high-risk environments to learn why some of these workers are more prone to engage in unwise, risky behaviour—and as a result, more likely to get injured or killed on the job.
She found that the problem was not with the policies and procedures, but with the culture of the organization. No matter how many safety meetings or policies were put in place, when the “cowboy culture” on the ground wasn’t addressed, injuries and deaths continued to occur. Some of the workers she interviewed said that they didn’t wear their personal protective equipment, or they took unnecessary risks because they didn’t want to appear weak, or they wanted to fit in.
So if safety policies and procedures don’t change the workplace culture, what does? Hollingdale suggests that employers take a three-pronged approach:
1. Shift goals – Work to shift the worker’s goals from an individual focus to a collective focus. When people have mutual respect for each other—and watch each other’s back—they will be more likely to act safely.
2. Change definitions – Don’t define competence and a job well done only by results, but also by a willingness to learn and a commitment to safety.
3. Involve workers – Don’t just make policies, but get workers’ feedback to learn what is realistic or needed on the ground. This will also give workers a greater sense of ownership of safety policies.
Source: WorkSafe Magazine