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Warnings – And Their Effects on Our Minds

Warnings – And Their Effects on Our Minds

You run into them at every turn – not just in every factory building, also in offices, on construction sites, and in instruction manuals: conspicuous signs warning against danger. And no, these signs, always in bright signal colors, are not simply there for liability purposes to provide facility operators and site owners with added legal protection. Warnings mainly serve to activate our minds danger-averse thought processes.

Carelessness, Routine, and Incorrect Use of Tools Account for the Highest Number of Accidents

It happens all too quickly. A construction worker trips over an improperly stored steel beam, falls from a steep height, and suffers numerous broken bones. Or a service technician failing to adhere to safety regulations, sticks a hand in an operational machine during a maintenance procedure and is seriously injured. According to the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 39.4% of all fatal workplace accidents occur because employees flout safety regulations or even deactivate safety precautions.

That is why it is essential to incorporate a company safety culture to ensure that employees are constantly aware of dangers and risks and adhere to pertinent precautionary measures.

The Psychological Aspect: Proper Warning Dosage

The rule “the more the merrier” does not apply to warnings. You should take into account the following points for proper placement:

  1. Categorization by risk potential
    Employees are not faced with mortal danger everywhere they go in factory buildings. Sometimes, in a careless moment, you might just bump your head. High-rise racks, for example, are more dangerous. If they are improperly stored or if forklifts are incorrectly operated, serious injuries or accidents with fatal consequences can easily occur. For this reason, there are worldwide warnings classified according to ANSI Z535 and ISO for different potential dangers:

  2. Avoid overstimulation
    Studies have shown that warnings are most effective if they are placed directly in the danger zone so that employees are aware of the risks immediately before engaging in dangerous work.

    Targeted and precise placement is recommendable – too many warnings, in contrast, tend to be counterproductive. They lead to overstimulation and are easier to ignore.

  3. Exploit human behavior
    How can you increase the likelihood of a warning actually being noticed and adhered to? A study by the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto reveals that the time when information is absorbed can influence moral behavior and performance. In a field test, subject groups filled out forms “more honestly” if asked to sign them BEFORE working on them. This insight can also be applied to occupational safety, as shown by the new EHS feature of the Coresystems Field Service Management Software.
Procurement with Integrated Safety Instructions

For service technicians working with the Coresystems Field Service Management Software, the risk associated with a specific task is classified before it is carried out using the standardized signal words (ISO/ANSI). Service technicians can also find detailed instructions in electronic forms or attached documents.

Furthermore, it is possible to use these electronic forms without excessive paperwork to request confirmation from service technicians that they have taken note of specific warnings. EHS professionals can easily create these kinds of checklists, which can then be adapted to current requirements.
It is important not to demand too much from employees. Overstimulation reduces the effectiveness of warnings. If 5 to 10% of process steps contain warnings, employees will heed them. You can increase mindfulness significantly while performing a job if employees have already familiarized themselves with work regulations.

As such, Coresystems consciously uses insight from behavioral psychology to place the appropriate weight on the human factor when it comes to digitalization – and to provide the best possible safety to field service employees.

EHS Blog Series by Bernhard Mark:
1) Can Software Save Lives?
2) Empowering Rather Than Patronizing
3) Analyzing Near Miss Instead of Penalizing Them

White Paper An Introduction To Field Service Management


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