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.
Stage 2: Contemplation (consciousness)
At this stage, participants are intending to start the healthy behavior within the next 6 months. While they are usually now more aware of the pros of changing, their cons are about equal to their Pros. This ambivalence about changing can cause them to keep putting off taking action.
People here learn about the kind of person they could be if they changed their behavior and learn more from people who behave in healthy ways.
Others can influence and help effectively at this stage by encouraging them to work at reducing the cons of changing their behavior.
One day while I was complaining about not having the resources, tools, or financing that I needed, my supervisor told me jokingly, “Anyone could do this job with the right tools. We hired you because we thought you were the type of guy who get the job done without any tools.”
It was soon after that event that he and I developed a plan to get the resources we needed to create a safety turnaround. As funny and sarcastic as his statement sounded, how many safety people know this to be the truth of the organization they work for without the knowledge that they will be given what they need to be successful. So many times, I hear the comments of how companies want to create a total safety culture. They roll out behavior safety observations but there is a key factor that is forgotten. The observation processes are not just about finding fault in actions. The process yields opportunity to engage employees to find unsafe conditions that need to be fixed. A safety observation process is not the “free” safety fix. It is actually a cost intensive process as it engages people to start thinking about the items that need to be addressed and the tools that are needed to create success. Once items are identified, the expectation is that those items will be addressed. If the organization then chooses the path to not correct those items, they lose credibility and negatively affect the culture of the team.
So, all of that information is the background necessary to explain the topic of this posting. Safety culture cannot happen overnight. It is a process that has to come to fruition through processes put into place. Contemplation is the phase where people really start thinking that the situation needs to change. They are starting to notice that safety can be better, and they start making plans of what and how the organization needs to change. The behavior based safety observation process can be a tool that engages the team to start contemplating the idea of a safer work environment. The pivotal point in this process is whether or not the contemplation leads to planning (the topic of the next post). If the team begins the journey where they are progressing to contemplate the ideas that come with an integrative safety system, those ideas have to be cultivated and acted upon. If the organization chooses to ignore this important milestone in behavioral change, then the culture will not progress. It will regress.
When a team or individual starts to ask the questions of how make the job safer, it is vitally important that those cognitive processes are taken seriously by the organization. This cultural contemplation has to used to develop the plan. The road to behavioral change is one that requires energy, resources, and tools. Without that support, behavioral change is only subconscious idea that cannot be realized by the organizational culture.