Five Stages of Behavioral Change: Part 6

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.

Slide1

Stage 5: Maintenance(monitoring)
People at this stage changed their behavior more than 6 months ago. It is important for people in this stage to be aware of situations that may tempt them to slip back into doing the unhealthy behavior—particularly stressful situations.

It is recommended that people in this stage seek support from and talk with people whom they trust, spend time with people who behave in healthy ways, and remember to engage in healthy activities to cope with stress instead of relying on unhealthy behavior.

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

From a lean standpoint, this is the part where continuous improvement is key. There is no such thing as having the perfect safety program. For any program, if it is stagnant; it is not functioning correctly. The safety culture has to be continually reviewed and improved. This is part of a plan-do-check-act process.

pdca

A culture has been establish, the focus changes to more of finding small ways to continually cultivate the culture and behaviors.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 6.52.22 PM

Over time, there are time of great cultural improvement and then times where the culture has to be maintained. After a series of gains and sustainment, the process finally yields a culture that the organization wants. This would be a self-actualized team. From the graph above, the line stays close the the desired culture but it is slowly rising. When zoomed in the gains are very similar but more on a micro-scale. There is still a series of continual improvements.

Like any other behavior or culture, safety is a series of small improvements overtime. Maintenance on a culture is not maintaining the behavior but finding incremental ways to continually engage and motivate the team.

Five Stages of Behavioral Change: Part 5

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.

Slide1

Stage 4: Action(currentaction)’
People at this stage have changed their behavior within the last 6 months and need to work hard to keep moving ahead. These participants need to learn how to strengthen their commitments to change and to fight urges to slip back.

People in this stage progress by being taught techniques for keeping up their commitments such as substituting activities related to the unhealthy behavior with positive ones, rewarding themselves for taking steps toward changing, and avoiding people and situations that tempt them to behave in unhealthy ways.

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

In the last post, the causal relationship of the Gemba (go and see) and communication was discussed.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 8.26.17 PM

This is the phase where the change is new. The organization is working to create the new behaviors and culture. The work is to keep the team focused on the goal that has been set. The organization has to keep the team motivated and focused. Small wins have to be celebrated! When people do not see the benefit of the change, they will lose the motivation to continue.

Here is a real example that is near and dear to me. I make the decision to loose some weight through diet and exercise. After a couple of weeks of feeling tired and deprived, I step on the scale and see no change. Suddenly, the desire for a cheeseburger and milkshake is overwhelming.

Just in the example, it is our job to help keep the motivation flowing. This can be through peer-to-peer interactions, congratulatory meetings, or even through showing of some metrics that people may not have seen before.

In the example of the weight loss issue, maybe the focus should be to track blood pressure or resting heart rate to show that the body is changing. The single data point of weight lead me to believe that the process was ineffective or at least not worth the effort invested.

Safety cultural change is worth the investment. The injury rate may not immediately make a large difference, but are we really measuring the right metrics. How many observations helped eliminate hazards? How many safety work orders were completed? Are there annual cultural surveys that could be affected? Are people more willing to talk about issues openly with ideas of resolution? There are many ways to measure change in a way that helps keep the team motivated. The organization has to be committed to this new change or it will fall to wayside as another failed attempt. This is also why change has to be taken in small sections. It is hard to keep many programs fully motivated all at the same time.

Through many turnarounds and culture experiences in safety, I have an analogy to summarize how too many changes too fast can get out of control.

“It like spinning plates on poles, except you’re in maze”

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 8.39.55 PM

There are many changes coming: once we get one going, we forget where the ones were before and we are not sure which ones are coming next.

The ultimate goal of this phase is motivation:

The change is worth it!

We can do it!

We are willing to invest fully in this change!

Five Stages of Behavioral Change: Part 4

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.

Slide1

Stage 3: Preparation (pre action)
People at this stage are ready to start taking action within the next 30 days. They take small steps that they believe can help them make the healthy behavior a part of their lives. For example, they tell their friends and family that they want to change their behavior.

People in this stage should be encouraged to seek support from friends they trust, tell people about their plan to change the way they act, and think about how they would feel if they behaved in a healthier way. Their number one concern is: when they act, will they fail? They learn that the better prepared they are, the more likely they are to keep progressing.

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

Even though this theory focuses on personal health, there are many aspects that align with making a cultural safety change.

Notice that this phase of change takes 30 days. How many times is a company willing to plan for 30 days before making a change?

In defense of quick change, there are time when a safety issue emerges in which change is immediately necessary. For these types of changes, the culture has to come through less planning and more action. For example, it is discovered that a glove change can prevent significant lacerations. The change comes immediately. So how does the company create the culture of this new glove use? They go and inspect frequently. In lean terms this is called a “Gemba.” You go the to place where the work is taking place and see what is happening. This is where coaching and mentoring really makes the difference. This is where you help people understand the whys and hows of the new policy. There will be times where people need reminded of the policy. There will be also times where people need to be appreciated for following the policy. Communication is key!

Speaking of communication, that is what preparation is all about. A company is about to roll out a behavior based safety program or a employee participation committee or a new way of making reports of potential issues, the next thirty days is all about communication. Have you over communicated the message? That is still not enough. To develop the cultural shift that is coming, the team needs to hear the message over and over. They need to see the message in many formats and in many forums. There also needs to be opportunity for questions and understanding. The more planning that is put into place the less action that has to take place. There is always some amount of communication and Gemba as part of any change, but they do have a causal relationship.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 8.26.17 PM

The goal during this phase of the process is to communicate and help the behaviors become adjusted to the new culture. Behavior and culture is not created over night. It is a process of helping a team adjust through proper planning and communication for the change that is about to happen.

Five Stages of Behavioral Change: Part 3

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.

Slide1

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.

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

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.

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.

Slide1

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.

Five Stages of Behavioral Change: Part 1

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. This was primarily focused on items such as making choices of exercising and eating healthy. From a safety standpoint, there are many similarities in how behavioral change is made. It is not the 8+ hours a day that people spend in the workplace that overall determines their health and safety. It is dependent on many factors including good systems and behaviors. There are many similarities between wellness and HSE processes. The most obvious is the “H” for health. HSE is about health and choices and behaviors that come with a healthy approach to the workplace and risk. So in that spirit of the theory, this seems to apply very well.

Slide1

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.

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.

Stage 3: Preparation (pre action)
People at this stage are ready to start taking action within the next 30 days. They take small steps that they believe can help them make the healthy behavior a part of their lives. For example, they tell their friends and family that they want to change their behavior.

People in this stage should be encouraged to seek support from friends they trust, tell people about their plan to change the way they act, and think about how they would feel if they behaved in a healthier way. Their number one concern is: when they act, will they fail? They learn that the better prepared they are, the more likely they are to keep progressing.

Stage 4: Action(currentaction)’
People at this stage have changed their behavior within the last 6 months and need to work hard to keep moving ahead. These participants need to learn how to strengthen their commitments to change and to fight urges to slip back.

People in this stage progress by being taught techniques for keeping up their commitments such as substituting activities related to the unhealthy behavior with positive ones, rewarding themselves for taking steps toward changing, and avoiding people and situations that tempt them to behave in unhealthy ways.

Stage 5: Maintenance(monitoring)
People at this stage changed their behavior more than 6 months ago. It is important for people in this stage to be aware of situations that may tempt them to slip back into doing the unhealthy behavior—particularly stressful situations.

It is recommended that people in this stage seek support from and talk with people whom they trust, spend time with people who behave in healthy ways, and remember to engage in healthy activities to cope with stress instead of relying on unhealthy behavior.

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

The reason I found this theory so interesting is that there is still a belief that culture and behavior can be created quickly. Each organization, and in such, each individual have to go through this process of creating new and positive behaviors. There is nothing about these steps that can be rushed or completed without due time or in their respective order.

So far in my career, I have been part of organizations that are undergoing cultural change because of:

  • 2x = Downsizing
  • 1x = Startup
  • 1x = Expansion
  • 3x = Safety program turnaround
    • 1x = Less than 6 month poor culture
    • 2x = Greater than 5 year poor culture

I have seen a trend of how these work. The first six months to one year, the company is patient. They let the work happen and focus on the process and not as much on the results. Then, they get impatient for results. Just like a quality or production problem, they want to see results and now! When we look at the model above, three of the five behavioral processes are all about mindset and preparing for the change. The forth item is where the change actually occurred, and the last is maintaining and improving on the behaviors and culture that has been created.

Slide1

It is my experience behavioral and cultural change is exponential. It takes time for the processes to work and help people internalize that change. Assuming that each of four phases are equal in time it takes to implement (removing maintenance as that is a termination step). It takes 75% of the time to prepare for the change and 25% of the time to make the change. This analysis supports the exponential idea of the process. The best outcomes that I have seen is that for each year a behavior or culture is not nurtured, it takes 50-75% of that time to create a positive culture. For example, a site that has not had a robust safety program for 10 years will most likely take 5-7 years to create the process and results of a good safety program once organization starts making the right changes.

Change takes time. Behaviors take even longer as there are complex emotions and cultures that have to be influenced. The next series of postings will focus on each of the five elements and how they can be applied to creating safety behavioral change.

Understanding Safety Norms

In psychology a Norm is a shared set of beliefs among a group in which there are behaviors that are and are not accepted. The group evolves to have a set of do’s  and don’ts that are established for how they should act in their environment. Research suggests that people will change how they behave based on the perception of the group or situation they are involved with.

Here are two basic and very simplified examples.

  1. When a group of friends get together they find that they always sit in the same places. The social norm for this group becomes to continue that routine.
  2. When someone goes to a friend’s party, they notice many people dressed in blue. At the next party, they decide to wear blue

In example one, the friends create a social norm. In example two, the person perceives the social norm and changes their behavior to match. The key point in example two is that perception creates the behavioral change. The party group may just have a coincidental use of the color blue. The person changes their behavior because they think that blue is the accepted norm even if it is not.

In safety, social norms can be powerful tools for both positive and negative behaviors. Another double edged sword is that once a norm is in place, it takes significant effort to create the cultural and behavioral changes to modify the norm.

Safety people have heard the stories of how crafts people are not really doing their job until they get their first shock, cut, burn, flash, etc. These are cultural norms that are created through the belief that people have to earn through experience. They need to feel the negative before they can understand the aspects of working safe. What happens, though, when the minor lesson learning injury turns into a significant injury or death? The only difference between a first aid and a fatality is luck. The norm creates unnecessary risk.

From a different standpoint, a new employee is trained that there is a full time safety glasses policy. During the on-the-job training, he notices that occasionally others do not wear their glasses all the time. The new employee makes the decision that during a task that has a higher risk of eye injuries to not wear his glasses. This results in a first aid to his eye. During the investigation, it is discovered about the new employee’s perception of the safety glass policy. The investigation then expands to ask those that he was training with about their use of safety glasses. Let’s assume that the culture of the organization is generally positive. The investigator learns that there are times were people feel that safety glasses are really not needed, so they choose to be lax with the use. When the question is asked about the specific task that led to the injury, the employees state that they always wear their glasses performing that task because of the higher risk. The new employee perceived the social norm and put himself at higher risk because of it.

This example is pertinent because it shows how social norms can be perceived and create unanticipated risk. Because the new employee did not know about all the risks, he made assumptions about the process and what would be accepted. This also shows how important mentoring is with a new employees. It is important that the policies are followed. This also speaks to assuring that if a policy is in place, it should be enforced fairly and consistently. Most likely, the supervisor knew that the employees had a habit of removing eye protection during certain tasks. The more the supervisor allowed the team to keep removing the glasses, the more it reinforced the social norm.

Now let’s look at the less dramatic and more powerful social norm using the same scenario. A new employee is hired and is trained on the full time use of safety glasses. As he is being trained, his mentor always wears his safety glasses. When they need to be cleaned or replaced, this is done in a safe area and completed properly. When the new employee sees someone without their safety glasses, he also sees that either another employee or the supervisor promptly uses the chance for constructive coaching about eye safety. The new employee perceives the social norm and always wears his eye protection. He never has a first aid.

So . . . which scenario takes the most energy to create that kind of culture? Yep, the second one. Which scenario creates the most employee engagement? Again, the second. Which scenario would be the one most likely to have the higher quality and better delivery metrics? The award goes to number two. A culture that has a discipline to self-coach and self-correct for safety will also use those same tools to drive all the company metrics. The positive social norm can create behaviors that benefit all aspects of the business. Social Norms can be powerful for a company to utilize and understand.

Cognitive Dissonance in Safety: Part 4

Cognitive dissonance is a psychological principle that occurs when the mind encounters a principle that is contrary to the person’s current belief. The mind creates a “dissonance” between the thoughts as a method of adjusting

This discussion focuses on the aspects of the cognitive dissonance and how that applies to occupational safety.

The free choice paradigm is an aspect of cognitive dissonance that creates a greater difference in a choice when the decision is actually very close in proximity. An example: Someone is given a choice between two very similar items. When they are evaluating which to choose, they rank the two items very close. The person makes a choice between the two similar items and is polled again at a later date. At this time, they create a much wider gap between the two items, heavily favoring the one they chose. The mind wants the decision that it made to be the best choice. So in retrospect, it creates the idea that it made the better choice by a wide margin.

I think as a safety professional, I have found myself doing exactly this. There are times where I am having to explain why I made one choice over another. The regulations sometimes allow a decision to be made on how to conduct compliance. In those cases, it often feels like “six one way, half a dozen another.” Once the decision is made, it is easy to look back and really feel that the decision was clear and well made.

I can remember one decision in particular. It was a start up, and I was deciding which safety glasses was the best choice. The risk for eye issues was low, but still it was an avoidable problem through the implementation of a safety glasses policy. I had narrowed the choice between a light weight more slim line style or a wider slightly more heavy one. Both were equally good choices. Ultimately, the choice was for the wider slightly more heavy style. Some days/weeks later a near miss occurred where a small air hose had come loose and whipped against someone’s face. Instead of striking the area near the eye, it hit the glasses. I remember pontificating quite passionately of “that was why I chose the wider style.”

The truth  . . . the glasses may not have made a difference. The other style may have protected just as well. I see it now as a way that I created greater reasoning for why the decision was made.

In this case the cognitive dissonance was not destructive. Probably annoying, but not harmful. It does show that when we are faced with equal choices, we may be apt to increase the benefit of why we made the specific choice in hindsight or after an event.

For the safety professional, this is an aspect of human psychology to keep in mind. If someone has to make a choice of two equally justifiable items, they could be prone to unintentionally making the choice significantly more favorable than the alternate. This can come in handy as a tool for incident investigations or while gaining understanding of processes and procedures. There may have been a good reason for why something is in place, but there may not have been such a positive difference. In these cases, the facts could speak more clearly than the opinions.

Cognitive Dissonance in Safety: Part 3

Continuing the discussion on cognitive dissonance theory, this post will focus on the induced compliance paradigm.

The experiment that showed this in action goes like this: a group of kids are given a room full of toys. They are expressly forbidden to play with one toy in the room, though. One group is threatening with a mild punishment, while another group is threatened with a harsh punishment. Sometime later, the kids are told they can now play with the forbidden toy. The kids in the mild punishment group were less likely to play with the toy than the group with the harsh punishment. This demonstrated that the only reason the kids in the harsh punishment group had to not play with the toy was that they did not want to be punished. The mild punishment group created other internal reasons for not playing with the toy as they could not simply justify that the punishment was enough. They may have convinced themselves that the toy was not that fun anyway.

The cognitive dissonance is the act of creating a reason for not doing something because the other reasons that are presented do not seem reasonable enough.

This does speak some to motivational theory in that by having large punishments or by having large rewards a goal can be achieved. The behavior is changed, but it is only changed to meet the basic extent of the goal. For instance, a company has a large monetary goal for not having recordable injuries. The team meets that goal not by being safer but by not reporting injuries. Anyway . . . that’s a topic for another time.

I find that induced compliance actually applies more to the safety professional than it does for others. First, the goal is not manipulate people to think about safety. The goal is to create healthy behaviors. As a safety professional, there are conflicting ideas such as: letter of the law, spirit of the law, and risk reduction. A good example would be the confined space regulations that state that once any part of the body that crosses the plain the space has been entered. The spirit of the law is that the space hazards are mitigated, and the person can be rescued. The letter of law sets the standard very clear terms. Without a clear delineation, there could be opportunities to put people at risk. The risk of entering the space versus breaking the plain varies with the space itself. The letter of law is clear so as to create the safest potential environment.

I find that I have to create reasons why to absolutely comply with the letter of law (which is the intent). Many OSHA regulations make sense and can be liberally applied to keeping people safe. In this case of confined spaces, there are so many variations and application that sometimes the best reason is only that the law requires it. Instinctively, when explaining the situation, I want to find practical applications in which to show that the law has assisted in protecting people or reducing risk. I create in myself induced compliance to justify the idea of following the letter of the law.

Now, it is implicit that the letter of the law be followed. That is the intention of any safety professional. This was an example only. I used the example as a time where intuition, risk reduction, the spirit of the law, and the letter of the law may not always be in sync. In these situations in can be normal for someone in safety to create additional reasons to justify the process. Sometimes, the hardest job the safety professional has is to convince others that his services are needed. We take bureaucratic processes and help people realize how those processed keep them safe. Even the safety professional has to sometimes stretch to meet that internal need to explain and justify the existence of the law and the protections that come with it.

Cognitive Dissonance in Safety: Part 2

There different paradigms that are all parts of the overall cognitive dissonance theory. This post will focus on the Belief Disconfirmation Paradigm. This aspect focuses on belief. When someone believes in something and yet is faced with facts that do not support their belief, they have two options. They can either change their beliefs or they can find ways to not only reinforce their belief. Usually the reinforcement of the belief leads them to find people and groups with similar beliefs and leads to attempts to persuade others to join the group. Essentially, they are disconfirming the facts through a stronger belief.

In a non-occupational safety item, the use of seatbelts is an interesting evaluation of this paradigm. Studies show that seatbelt usage will decrease the risk of death or serious injury in an automobile accident by up to 50% (CDC Information). I will use the state of Kentucky as an example. As of 2011, it was estimated that only 82% of the state’s residents used seatbelts (NHTSA Information). It should be noted that Kentucky is a state with a seatbelt law. Since the time of the law the state has seen an increase of 16% greater usage of seatbelts.

So why is it that we know that seat belts save live and is a law yet approximately one in five choose not to wear them? Now for a bit of personal commentary: I have noticed when facing someone who is non-seatbelt user they will instinctively tell a story of a time where they think a seatbelt may have created a situation where someone would have been seriously hurt while wearing one. They may also give names of other people who do not wear them. This is an example of Belief Disconfirmation.

This occurs also in occupational safety. There are ways that this can be overcome. Education is key, overwhelming information that will help in giving people the facts and truth about the risk and how to mitigate that risk. People need the right tools to make the right choices. As a safety person, I cannot assume that people are simply choosing to make the unsafe choice. The first plan should be to make sure they have been equipped with the right information to make a informed a proper decision.

This can also be a case where safety rules do come into play. The makes the choice for compliance clear. Like in seatbelt usage, Kentucky saw the greatest increase in usage once compliance was a law. With that said, a rule alone is not enough. Education is still the critical path. There has to be an understanding of the benefit of the rule and how the rule helps in keeping people safe.

Overall, the process is to help not only present information that would reduce dissonance but also help equip others that might be influence by the belief. The goal is to create opportunities for people to see the facts and understand the process for personal and organizational safety.