Safety and OSHA News

Countering ‘it won’t happen to me’

They may not say it aloud, but you know one of the primary reasons some employees don’t follow safety rules is because they think, “It won’t happen to me.”

One way to counter that thought: Arrange to have employees hear important safety messages from a number of different sources.

A new report from the National Weather Service (NWS) backs that up.

NWS just released its internal report on the Super Tuesday tornado outbreak of Feb. 5-6, 2008. The report’s subtitle: Why Some People Don’t Heed Severe Weather Warnings.

Reason: Many people minimize the threat of personal risk through “optimism bias,” the belief that such bad things only happen to others.

This optimism bias was reflected in comments from several affected residents in the report, such as, “They [tornadoes] always seem to hit down the road,” and “We didn’t think it was going to be here.”

A prime example: A woman in Arkansas heard a tornado warning from the local TV news and then from a local radio station. Warning sirens sounded twice. Only after her son-in-law called did she decide to take shelter.

NWS theorizes an important factor in how people respond to warnings is whether they personalize the threat.

This example shows how some people require multiple sources of information to assess personal risk.

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to be the only one to repeat safety warnings to workers. Getting others to do it will help. How can you do this?

  • Get outside expert speakers to address employees.
  • Use other sources of information – such as this Web site – to back up your points.
  • Make it really personal: Have an accident victim speak. If one isn’t available, ask workers how their lives would be affected if they were injured.
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  1. We are in a tornado-prone area. A few years ago I had several new transplants from New England working at our plant and when the tornado warning was sounded and the radion indicated it was close by, many of these New Englanders actually went outside to see what it looked like. If they would have gotten struck we probably would have been held liable. Sometimes you just can’t win no matter what you do.

  2. Kayakjim says:

    Using the personal examples is key. These are from not only the trainer; employees have experiences to share and peer-to-peer is golden!
    For example, shortly after my arrival here we had an employee take a bad tumble while skateboarding. He was in a coma for a week. His return to work was an opportunity to talk with him about the incident and, since we were going to be talking about PPE the following month wanted to use him as an example. Not only did he agree; he has become the poster child for PPE in the building! At least weekly he sends me safety info from within and outside, and is a mentor for others now.
    I have to admit, LEU; being originally from the Pacific coast and now in GA I still get the itch to look outside when those sirens sound!

  3. Michelle says:

    Our best source is our own employees – they voluntarily share their stories with other employees – showing that things really can happen.

  4. LEU and Kayak: I live in Colorado. Had to laugh one time when the tornado sirens sounded, and all the men went outside to look while the women and children headed for their basements. Seems to be a gender component involved.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Some people still don’t get it no matter what you do. In my community, several young people have died in car accidents recently due to text messaging while driving. These stories are constantly in the news as local lawmakers are trying to get a “distracted driving” law passed. Despite all of this, I have a family member who insists on using his Blackberry, checking his email, while driving! He still thinks nothing will happen to him.

  6. Michelle says:

    Just today, we went for our afternoon walk break – a car was turning the corner and the female driver was texting. She was awfully close to us on the sidewalk.

  7. Michelle, how does this apply to the article? Was the lady driving an Olds Tornado?

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