Health & Safety Message Ignored? Try a Different Approach


Health & Safety Message Ignored? Try a Different Approach

Is your health & safety message ignored? At Christmas time, no one wants to think about dangers and rules, so it’s even harder to make sure that health and safety issues are addressed.

Many health and safety professionals try and get the message across by increasing the fear factor, with stories of death and destruction at Christmastime. This may get through, but for most people it has exactly the opposite effect. When they hear something scary, they stop listening.ignored message

We  are all really good at shutting our minds to uncomfortable reality. Using fear to open ears or minds doesn’t work. Let me tell you about why I finally stopped smoking.

Changing perspective

When I was training as a nurse,  everyone smoked. We worked in wards full of people with lung cancer, or strokes or cardiac arrests caused by smoking, we knew this, and we still smoked. We just shut that knowledge off because what was more important to us was that we were part of the crowd, we belonged, we weren’t boring…

Reality told us that tomorrow we would suffer, but we were young and today was more important to us. Belonging and being admired was an important driver at that age. It was only looking at it from a different angle that motivated me to stop. I thought about what I cared about now–my work, my friends, my family.

How unpleasant it must be for an ill patient to smell smoke on my clothes, I thought.

What about my friends who didn’t smoke–how did it make them feel when I smoked?

I thought about the example I was setting my younger sister, who had health problems that smoking made worse.

Suddenly, it seemed ridiculous that I was smoking, so I stopped. It didn’t happen because I was scared or worried about my health. A great example of a similar shift in perspective is the video by The BS Guys —How to change people who don’t want to change.

You can’t change people who don’t want to change

So if you want people to change, they have to be motivated to change. If they ignore your message, they will ignore it even more if you say it again, louder and with more grisly examples. Repeating the same ineffective message will just make them walk away.

In construction, sometimes youngsters ignore safety warnings because they are trying to prove how tough they are. Telling them how dangerous something is makes it more likely they will attempt it.

How can you motivate people to want to change

First, don’t blame them for not listening or call them ignorant. People can sense if you care about them and respect them. People will not listen if they sense hostility.

Ask yourself why is this health and safety message ignored? What are their concerns right now? What is more important than danger? Why would a reasonable, sane person behave that way?

Those of you who’ve done marketing will remember AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.What really works better in this case is changing what you’re doing.

  • Look and listen–what’s actually happening? Why are people doing what the wrong thing? Is it easier? Is more attractive?
  • Change the surroundings if you can. Make it easy to do the right thing.
  • Change the culture. Make it more fun, more acceptable to do the right thing

You might not even have to give the message…but if you do, remember to make it relevant and attractive for the person. Change the story, change the world.

Find the story, Granny Weatherwax always said. She believed that the world was full of story shapes. If you let them, they controlled you. But if you studied them, if you found out about them… you could use them, you could change them.
Terry PratchettWitches Abroad

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