There are many things that we do regularly and have done for years that become automatic. Driving is a prime example. We all drive to work or bring our kids to school driving the same route every day. Yet how many of us can recall every detail of that drive on any one occasion? Our minds are being occupied by the day to day minutia that creeps in to our thoughts on a regular basis. These are not trivial things but things that are important to our everyday life and family. What time was Billy’s or Suzie’s soccer game? What time was that meeting scheduled for at work? Whose birthday is it today?
When we embark on tasks that we have done over and over again those circuits or pathways in our conscience are not full and part of the task is being done by the unconscious part of our minds allowing space for other thoughts to creep in. This habituation and complacency is what can lead to injury not necessarily through carelessness but from tuning out what is going on merely from the fact that we have done it so often.
Every one of us, me included, have things that we say “I could do that in my sleep”. Repetition is what leads to complacency and habituation in many ways in the tasks we do, things we see, and safety shortcuts we might take due to inconvenience, lack of PPE, time crunches, etc. The habit of having done something one way, either correctly or not, for a period of time it becomes habituated in to our daily lives.
Some research done states it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days to create a habit or to where doing a task becomes automatic. I would guess, that the frequency of the task being done would play in to the time it takes to reform the habit.
This plays to any of the tasks we do. Any task we do can benefit with retraining or revisiting the fundamentals in order to bring it back to the conscience part of our mind. Safety training can be at times repetitious and seem to be more of a bother than not but it is important in that it can bring things to light that have been pushed to the back to the dust bins of our mind and are overlooked due to compliancy and habit.
Safety training keeps us focused on what is important in the tasks we do on a daily basis. Many of the tasks we do can and are hazardous and complacency can lead to dire results, accidents and injuries. Revisit the tasks that need to be done, think about their hazards, the safety precautions, procedures, and personal protective equipment that apply to those tasks and bring them back to the front of our minds. Remember Accidents cost money. Working safe is free.
By Paul Gladen