Avoid Safety Complacency Through Mindfulness

Posted by
Lance Roux
on Nov 18, 2014

safety_complacencyIn the November 2014 issue of Professional Safety, Robert Pater explored strategies for expanding mindful safety. With so many accidents caused by mindlessness, mindfulness becomes a strategy for beating safety complacency by encouraging your employees to approach their work in a state of "relaxed receptivity and readiness." The benefits of mindfulness go beyond workplace safety and injury prevention, when done right, mindfulness reduces stress and fatigue, increases mental and physical energy, and improves efficiency, productivity, and communications.

Pater suggests 8 strategies safety leaders can implement to heighten mindfulness in the workplace.

  1. Don't treat mindfulness like just another buzzword. Encourage your employees to practice it, and practice it yourself. The goal is for you and your team to become more attuned to your surroundings, and this may require reducing or eliminating proforma, go-through-the motions, or checklist based duties. For example, when doing an incident review, don't just let your workers get away with checking the boxes. Really engage them in a conversation about the incident and get them to notice every detail that led to the incident.

  2. Stay practical. Your goal is not to get your employees checking out into a meditative trance, but checking in with their surroundings so they are more aware of potential hazards, risks, and things going on around them that could affect them. Be practical in how you teach mindfulness. For example, you could train your employees to pause and take a few deep breaths to center themselves into awareness of their surroundings before beginning each task, and upon returning from each break. 

  3. Teach your employees to pay attention to self-monitor for tension, pain and energy levels. Something as simple as recognizing when your body is exhausted and taking a break or stretch can help prevent injuries.

  4. Encourage engagement in all arenas of life. When workers are engaged, their senses are heightened and they naturally become more mindful. This applies whether they are at work, or at play. 

  5. Improve personal control. Workers can control stress by using breathing exercises, mind calming visualizations, or realigning their bodies. You should train your workers in these stress reduction techniques.

  6. Solidify physical balance. Teach your employees to maintain their balance using self-monitoring and on going adjustment. Boosting balance reduces the falls, soft-tissue and finger and hand injuries, while also making employees feel more in control of their bodies.

  7. Focus on the present moment. Mindfulness requires quieting the constant chatter in your head so that you can focus on what is going on in front of you. You need to train your mind to focus on the present, not the past, and not the future. When applied to safety, it means your employees need to pierce through their misconceptions and theories to see the risks and changes that are present now. One common and effective technique for getting your mind focused on the present moment is to pause and notice your breath for a few minutes.

  8. Heighten your senses. Be receptive to all of your sensory cues about safety and risk. In safety, this means sight, sound, and touch. Train workers to notice details. Is a piece of equipment making an unusual sound? Do you hear a vehicle approaching. Mindfulness allows you to focus your senses on everything going on around you so that you notice possible risks before it's too late.

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Tags: Mindfulness

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