Here’s what to do when your people make irrational and unsafe choices.

Humans are not always rational creatures. We can be very impulsive, and sometimes we act as though we're much more interested in short-term results than long-term value.

Here's an example: Someone on your crew figures he'll "save time" by not taking a couple minutes to walk across the jobsite to get the stepladder that he really needs to do his next task. Instead, he climbs up onto a 5-gallon pail that's balanced on two cinder blocks to reach his work. There are lots of ways you could respond. Some are more productive than others. Here are a few ideas that should do more good than harm:

Ask him to carefully climb down from the pail. When he's safely on the floor and you have his complete attention, take a moment to make a few points. Tell him that it's his responsibility to follow the jobsite safety rules. Let him know that the rules are in place to keep him from getting hurt. Tell him that you care about him and don't want him to get hurt. Remind him that his family is depending on him to not get hurt.

Ask him to use a stepladder to finish the job. Remind him that his quick, irrational, and unsafe choice to use the 5-gallon pail instead of a stepladder could have had bad, long-term consequences. If he had fallen and injured his back, he could have been off work for a long time, and that would have very real, very negative consequences for him and his family.

You’re not finished yet. Thank him for switching to the stepladder. You may be surprised at how safe behaviors improve when you make a point of acknowledging safe behavior and thanking your crew for doing the right thing and doing it the right way. You could build even more goodwill by asking his opinion on whether the necessary tools, supplies, and materials could be stored in a more convenient location.

Let your people know that you are personally invested in their safety. They may be too tough to show it, but they’ll appreciate knowing that you care.