Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Science of Behavioral Safety 101: A Little Praise Goes a Long Way

We probably have all heard the old adage: “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Well, there’s plenty of science to support it. Psychological research has shown us time and again that positive reinforcement is the single most powerful tool in our arsenal for eliciting and maintaining desired behavior. It’s true when it comes to parenting children and it’s true when it comes to creating safe work environments. Strategic use of positive reinforcement is effective and highly cost-efficient...Remember that safety is defined as a dynamic non-event. As such, word spreads quickly when a big safety mishap occurs but not when minor safety errors are committed without incident. So, our knowledge can be limited when it comes to understanding the current risk for error among employees. To monitor risk, we must have awareness of how people are performing with respect to many discrete and routine tasks. Staying safe depends on doing the right thing all day every day, even when nobody is looking. Staying focused on the “little things” requires frequent reminders and reinforcements. In the absence of such feedback, human beings naturally drift away from safe practices and use of error prevention tools. To stay safe, we need others to notice and reinforce proper adherence to safety expectations. more

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