Noticing the Little Things Can Make the Workplace SaferWhen everything is fine and things are running smoothly, we don’t notice all of the small actions we’re regularly doing to keep it that way. Today, take time to notice when your people are doing routine tasks that help to keep everyone on the jobsite safe. Look for—and praise—the mundane:

  • Wearing gloves
  • Taking a moment to make sure safety goggles fit properly
  • Making the ladder stable and secure

And look for—and praise—the extraordinary:

  • Noticing that a co-worker is not fit for work, because of possible drug use, illness, or mental exhaustion, and then letting you know so you can get that person the help they need.
  • Stopping work, and production, to fix a broken guard.

Actions have consequences. When you praise your people for taking care of the small stuff, you’re building their sense of agency and letting them know that they’re making the right choices, the safe choices. When you look at the root cause of any accident, it’s likely that the problem started small and grew. Think about these very different scenarios that all start with a burnt-out light bulb:

  • You notice a burnt-out light bulb and make a mental note to change it, but you forget. Later, your best carpenter slips and falls because he can’t see well in the dim light. And while he’s at home recovering, you have scheduling problems.
  • You notice a burnt-out light bulb and you get a replacement bulb, but can’t find a stepladder. So, you stand on a chair to reach the bulb, the chair tips, you fall onto your shoulder, and you have to wear a sling for 6 weeks while it heals.
  • You notice a burnt-out light bulb, get a replacement, borrow the ladder from the guys doing electrical work upstairs, and change the light bulb promptly. Nobody notices and it’s no big deal, because nothing went wrong.

We often fail to notice the sequence of events that leads to “nothing went wrong.” Today, try to notice.