Can A Single Word Improve Safety Culture?


Is there a difference between these two phrases?

I can’t work without fall protection” and

I don’t work without fall protection

Research says there is a big difference…and it might affect your EHS culture.

Published in the Journal of Consumer Research, a team of researchers experimented with the words “don’t” and “can’t” in an effort to measure goal accomplishment and empowerment. In one case study, researchers tracked three groups of participants in a 10-day health and wellness program. One group was told to use phrases such as “I don’t miss a workout”, another was to use “I can’t miss a workout” and a control group was not instructed in any way.

The results were incredible.

In the “I don’t” group, 8 out of 10 completed the full 10 days. In the “I can’t” group, 1 out of 10 persisted and 3 out of 10 did so in the control group.

Are people in your organization using “I don’t” or “I can’t”?

Could a shift in phrasing influence EHS compliance, drive down unsafe shortcut taking, and increase the capacity for safe work at your company?

Link to full research paper here.

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