Perspective plays an important role in Laboratory Safety. For instance, when you see John working with no gloves on, you (hopefully) will go to him and let him know he needs to be using PPE in the lab. We very often tell ourselves stories about what we see, and that can affect our approach – and the outcome! If this is not the first time you’ve seen John without gloves, you might think John is simply stubborn, foolish, or trying to be a rebel. It may be none of those things, there may be other sources of influence causing the bad behavior.
What other possibilities exist for John’s actions? The lab doesn’t have the correct size gloves available. John can’t find the gloves because they are in the delivery cart in the hallway and no one put them away. John is having a skin reaction to the gloves used in the lab. John just received bad news about his wife’s health and is distracted. No one ever educated John about the proper use of gloves.
If one of those were true, doesn’t that change how you will approach John about the issue? It should. In fact, you should stop and think about the possibilities each time you are ready to coach someone about lab safety. Start with a question like, “John, I noticed you’re not wearing gloves. Can I get you some?” See where the conversation goes from there. You’ll find in your role as a safety professional, you will have greater success.
In case you are wondering, I didn’t make this up. I recommend reading the book Crucial Confrontations by by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. You will learn great coaching strategies that can help you improve your lab safety culture.
Remember, respect your co-workers, and understand that they are living from a different point of view. That will be important if you want that next safety coaching session to go well!