All too often, safety programs are launched in a reactive way, addressing only the physical risk factors within a workplace in response to a specific incident. But in order to be truly effective, safety programs—and the safety focused professionals who implement them—must be responsive to three different types of indicators: physical, cognitive and organizational.
There is direct evidence that connects this type of professional to risk intervention success. A successful risk intervention can reduce employee injury and the number of lost work days, which translates directly into financial savings for a company.
When considering the triad of risk areas that prevention specialists need to address, the physical risk area is the most basic and obvious one. The other two risk areas—cognitive and organizational—are slightly more nuanced and, as a result, more likely to be overlooked.
Even the most effective safety initiative ever created is useless if the provider doesn’t know how to communicate that initiative to the employees. It’s not enough to simply have a safety program: that program has to be understood and utilized by the staff in order to be effective.
For example, say an onsite prevention specialist notices that an employee is practicing an unsafe lifting technique. They recognize the exact physical risk and know what the employee needs to change in order to lift safely. But without an awareness of the employee’s cognitive state, it is impossible to know the best way to impart this information to the employee.
“Before changing a behavior, people must first be understood and feel listened to, and then provided with advice in a way they will hear and use it,” says Julie Landis, Vice President of Business Development at Briotix. “When we listen, a worker, patient, or family member is freed to hear what we say. It sounds trivial, but it’s an extremely complicated skill to keep in mind during our services.”
A provider that is appropriately trained and prepared will respect and identify these cognitive risk factors before approaching any employee. One strategy used by Briotix providers to address this risk area is called motivational interviewing.
“Motivational interviewing is an evidence-based best practice for influencing someone’s motivation to do something they were initially hesitant to do,” Landis says. “It is about assisting someone in activating new, positive behaviors and helping them to sustain those behaviors.”
Before approaching and correcting an employee’s lifting technique, a well-trained provider might inquire about why they are lifting with their current technique. Is it because of pain elsewhere in the body? When a provider enters into a conversation with the employee, listens to their perspective, and provides gentle suggestions for improvement: this is a safety initiative that addresses the cognitive risk area.
Undoubtedly, the way in which safety techniques are presented will influence how likely an employee is to use them. This is why a provider with cognitive and behavioral training—i.e., the ability to explain and encourage safe behaviors among employees— is an integral part of effective risk management.
If you are looking for improvements in your workplace wellness, contact us to discuss your current issues.