What can we learn about behavioural safety from America’s love of firearms?

Guns only keep you safe if you have the mindset and skills required to use them most effectively. At Beehive we’ve adopted the model of Mindset + Skills + Tools as the most effective way of transforming safety behaviours – introducing tools along with the mindset and skills necessary for them to be most effective.

15793761-Illustration-of-shooting-turkey-Stock-Vector-gunOn a recent visit to Florida I made enquiries about learning to shoot a handgun. Not from any homicidal tendencies you understand, but because it’s something you can’t do over here. As I looked into it (during which I became more and more worried by how easy and cheap it was – free ladies days at the range, anyone? – and the lack of anything resembling checks or training!) I came across a video from an ex-marine who now trains civilians to use guns. It set me thinking about safety.

The video included footage from the dashcam of an armed policeman who’d been shot dead by a driver he’d stopped for a routine check. The video stated that after a recent mass shooting, sales of guns had increased because people were scared and believed that possessing a gun would keep them safe – if in danger they just pull it out and shoot. This, the ex-marine explained, is not the case for a number of reasons:

  • Having a gun can increase the danger, as an attacker could then feel justified in shooting first, or could take the gun off you to use against you
  • Even if you can hit the heart and head of your target every time on the range – most targets in the shooting ranges are person-shaped (!) – it does not help you in an attack situation – on average there is a three second window in which to act, and adrenaline means you forget everything in the terror of the moment
  • You may become over confident, taking greater risks because you feel safer
  • That the gun is just a tool and like any tool requires two things for it to be of use – the right mindset and the right skills.

By mindset he meant being clear about why you have a gun, the potential and limitations of it, how and when it should be used and how and when it shouldn’t. By skills he meant not just being able to point and shoot but being able to do so in the kind of situations you’d bought the gun for ie in the heat of the moment. This he described as being ‘combat’ not just ‘target’ ready, and his company was all about providing combat-ready training.

It occurred to me that safety management systems, regulations, processes and procedures can sometimes be viewed a little bit like having a gun. The fact that they are there leads people to believe that they’re safe – all they have to do is follow them, they may not think beyond them, they may take greater risks because of them, they may not be able to think beyond them in an emergency. In fact it’s not the systems, processes and procedures that keep people safe; they’re just the tools, and often blunt ones at that – no safety manual covers every possible situation and it’s the unforeseen ones that usually create the biggest problems, and if procedures aren’t fit for purpose they actually encourage the violations they’re there to reduce. It’s having the right mindset :

  • trustworthy
  • committed to the spirit not just slavish compliance to the letter of regulations
  • recognising that safety is created not by the processes but by the people who use them
  • being aware of both the importance and limitations of regulations etc
  • being accountable for your own behaviours and role in keeping people safe

– that makes the difference. And having the right skills:

  • ‘soft power’ skills that empower, build relationships and generate the required commitment
  • clarity of thought and power of communication
  • decision making
  • the ability to give (and receive) feedback constructively and hold self and others to account
  • leadership

that increases the efficacy of any system or process, even making up for imperfections.

At Beehive we’ve adopted the model of Mindset + Skills + Tools as the most effective way of transforming safety behaviours – introducing tools along with the mindset and skills necessary for them to be most effective. It’s why in our three-day ‘Transforming Safety Behaviours’ workshops we combine our one day ‘Human Performance Fundamentals’ – an introduction to human performance principles, models and tools – with a one-day ‘Coaching for Safety’ workshop – developing the non-directive mindset and skills required for one-to-one coaching – and either a ‘Team Coaching’ or ‘Mentoring Apprentices’ workshop – that increases the effectiveness, reach and power not just of human performance tools, but any safety management system, process or procedure.

I never did learn to shoot on my holiday. The ex-marine had no space available while I was there and his was the only company that offered the kind of training I felt confident in – the only person who really sounded like he knew what he was doing. But I will when I next go stateside. So if when I see you I say I’m packing, it may not be for a holiday……!

The next three-day ‘b.SAFE Transforming Safety Behaviours’ workshop will be held at the Brathay Trust in Cumbria (@BrathayPD).

Nov 15th 2017 – ‘Human Performance Fundamentals’ – This meets the Nuclear Industry Standard but is relevant to any supervisor or site/quality/safety manager/engineer working in a safety critical environment

Nov 16th 2017 – ‘Coaching for Safety’ – endorsed by the National Skills Academy Nuclear (NSAN) but relevant to any supervisor or site/quality/safety manager/engineer working in a safety critical environment

Nov 17th 2017 – ‘Mentoring Apprentices’ – endorsed by the National Skills Academy Nuclear (NSAN) but relevant to any apprentice, supervisor or site/quality/safety manager/engineer working in a safety critical environment

Each day stands alone but the three days are designed to build on and develop the understanding and applicability of the days before. For more information or for a place on our free safety culture seminar on Sept 15th contact me on sara@beecld.co.uk

Author: bsafebuzz

Sara Lodge is co-director, along with Mark Sykes, of Beehive Coaching and Leadership Development Ltd and b.SAFE Safety Culture, an organisational development consultancy specialising in behaviour change and safety culture.

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