Five Stages of Behavioral Change: Part 2

In 1983,  Prochaska & DiClemente theorized that there was process of making behavioral change. This five step model was developed while evaluating how people changed from unhealthy to healthy behavior. From a safety standpoint, there are many similarities in how behavioral change is made. Safety is about choices and behaviors that come with a healthy approach to the workplace and risk. There is a process for behavioral change, and it does not occur overnight.

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Stage 1: Precontemplation (Subconsciousness)
The model consists of four “core constructs”: “stages of change,” “processes of change,” “decisional balance,” and “self-efficacy.”

People at this stage do not intend to start the healthy behavior in the near future (within 6 months), and may be unaware of the need to change. People here learn more about healthy behavior: they are encouraged to think about the pros of changing their behavior and to feel emotions about the effects of their negative behavior on others.

Precontemplators typically underestimate the pros of changing, overestimate the cons, and often are not aware of making such mistakes.

One of the most effective steps that others can help with at this stage is to encourage them to become more mindful of their decision making and more conscious of the multiple benefits of changing an unhealthy behavior.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transtheoretical_model)

If you have any involvement with safety, let me ask you a question. How many times have your heard the statement after someone is injured, “I just knew that (insert any piece of machinery or process here) was going to hurt someone.”?

It is the great frustration. After the incident has occurred, there are many people who come the realization that they knew an injury could happen. This is the stage of precontemplation. The person/team/organization is subconsciously aware that the process or equipment could hurt someone, but it is not to the point where conscious action is ready to be taken.

This is not a conscious choice to ignore a hazard. They may not even be fully aware of the hazard or how the hazard will occur. As the definition implies, they on on the cusp of starting to become aware of the change that needs to happen, but they need some motivation or understanding to help their mind open up to the potential.

This is not the post for solving safety behaviors. This series of posting will take us through that journey as we explore the other four stages. What I will say is that in this stage there is a vague recognition of a hazard but the clarity and the awareness has not become apparent.

Here is a generic example: A worker is on a production floor where there is a potential for water or oil to be present creating a potential slipping hazard. There are many processes going on in the area including mobile equipment moving around. The employee has an odd feeling about the issue, but cannot conceptualize the root of it. One day, someone slips. Suddenly, the realization hits that the issue is the slick floors. Management is now involved to train people on recognizing slick floors, increase the PPE for slip resistant shoes, and increase housekeeping.

The example is reactive. The goal, of course, is to create awareness and behaviors that prevent the injury. In this phase of the behavioral journey, the team is not aware yet of the need for proactive change.

The takeaway is that an organization in this phase has a choice progress to the next stage through reactive or proactive approach. The next postings will describe the behavioral change approach along with the time and investment it takes to really create behavioral change.

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