A habit is defined as “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.”

Everyone has habits… things that we say or do that we follow on a daily basis. These habits have a major effect on our life and affect the choices we make at work. The choice to follow a safety procedure on any given day could be affected by a habit you have had for years.

Daily Habits…

Think about the habits you follow every single day. Start with waking up. Did you hit the snooze button twice and then rise to take out the dog? Do you do this every day? What about coffee? Do you use the same mug, the same brand and maybe pour a cup for your partner? These repeated actions often settle themselves into habits, they are the same choices you make every single day whether consciously or subconsciously. These daily choices are your habits.

Building these habits….

According to Charles Duhigg, author of the book The Power of Habit, there is a “habit loop”. The habit loop he describes in his book is a three-part process. The first part of the process is the cue or trigger, the second is the routine or behavior itself, and the third is the reward.

Let us take the example of someone repeatedly hitting the snooze button and look at it as a bad habit you want to break. We assess the habit while looking at Duhigg’s habit loop. The trigger of this habit would be your alarm going off in the morning. While the alarm is blaring your mind tells you it is okay to hit the snooze button and continue sleeping because in the past you have done it. Hitting the snooze button would be the behavior. The reward would be getting more sleep. To break this habit, you would need to change one of the three components.

Looking at the routine first, maybe changing the location of your alarm to a location where you would have to get out of bed would work in breaking the habit. The alarm going off is still the trigger, but you have changed the routine by having to physically get out of bed making it less likely you will go back to sleep. Another option to help break the habit is experiencing a different reward which would be having more time in the morning. By not hitting the snooze button repeatedly you will experience a new reward of more time and less rush in the mornings before work. This reward alone over time may lead you to curve the habit of hitting snooze. Not all habits are easy to break, but you get the point.

Habits as they related to Jobsite Safety…

Your habits may be leading you to regularly take shortcuts and not follow safety procedures. Are there certain safety procedures you always follow and others that you forget to follow? For example, you usually use the extension cord that you keep stored in the back of your truck. You know it’s there and easy to access… but your cord has been getting some wear and tear. You know that using fraying or improperly grounded extension cords is not something that you should do on a safe work site, but you put away the cord last time without giving it a good “once over” to see that it’s damaged and replacing it. Using it this “one time” is easier than going back to the gang box to grab another…and your supervisor hasn’t noticed a nick in the cord.

Breaking habits….

Pay attention to the habits you hold on to and how they affect you daily. Make an accurate and honest accounting of your habits on the Jobsite and note how many of these habits are positive ones and how many are negative? Look at the choices you make at work and if they lead to potential dangers (even if the consequences seem small) and then look into changing them and creating new safer habits for you and for your team.

Keeping an “Attitude of Safety” as your habit means making conscious choices about the next step, the next tool and pre-thinking the consequences before taking action. Think about your attitude of safety on the job, during your drive to and from, and with your family and friends around the house. Taking a few minutes to think about your habits before you act on them may save someone’s life, or perhaps just their day!

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