Breaking Bad Safety Habits

It wasn’t working and yet they couldn’t quit.

The organization spent millions per fiscal year on safety training and education, with spurious results. During years when injuries and lost work days went down, the positive results were correlated to the training. Other time, when injury rates rose, the results were instead tied to market conditions or something else outside of the company’s control. Peoples’ jobs depended on the training and senior leaders felt good about providing the training. They couldn’t quit.

London Business School professor, Freek Vermeulen, writes in “Breaking Bad Habits: Defy Industry Norms and Reinvigorate Your Business” on how organizations develop bad habits. One of the examples given is of South African banking. One bank, looking for competitive advantage in pricing, reduced account transfer fees to one flat amount, instead of the traditional percentage of funds transferred. Expecting their competitors to immediately reduce their transfer pricing, the bank marketed the reduced costs widely. Surprisingly, their competitors did not reduce their pricing. Why? The higher transfer fees supported budgets in other business units and their managers depended on the revenue.  They simply could not afford to change. You may be able to guess the result (significantly reduced market share).

How much of your EHS program began with good intentions (and good results) but you’re unsure why you’re still doing it?

What can you not afford to quit?

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