Workers Not Following Safety Policies? Safety Data Can Help

Sometimes, it’s frustrating to see safety policies not being followed. And honestly, during my early years in safety, I would get angry at workers for this. Because after all, you’ve worked hard to put these policies in place to protect them.

But there might be reasons why they’re not doing so. And data can help you solve this issue. Let’s talk about it.

Possible Reasons Why They’re Not Following Policies

Personally, I take safety seriously both at work and in life. But the truth is, not everyone does. And that is why some workers take safety for granted. Because of this, some workers follow safety policies but, don’t take them seriously. So, if ever a safety policy is troublesome, they’ll tend to skip it because they need to continue working.

And as a safety manager, you need to know how to handle employees who don’t care about safety compliance.

Another possible reason why workers don’t follow safety policies is that they lack knowledge. Meaning, they don’t understand why these policies are in place. So, again, this contributes to why these workers tend to skip troublesome policies that they feel are hindering their work.

Another reason, which is probably the most overlooked, is the work process itself. Maybe, these workers are forced to bypass safety policies due to their environment and work condition.

For example, let’s say that a machine in a production line tends to often jam. And for the machine to function again, the worker must remove the cause of the jam. And to do so, the worker must follow a lengthy safety policy. He follows it diligently on the initial jams. But, due to the frequent jamming of the machine, the production line might not hit the target quota. So, he bypasses the procedures. But then, came the accident. The question is, who’s really at fault here?

Collecting Insightful Safety Data Can Show the Whole Picture

In the mentioned example, some might say it’s the worker’s fault but then, is it really solely his fault? If we look closely at the circumstances, wasn’t he forced by the working conditions?

In order to really paint the whole picture, its standard practice following any major workplace injury to do a root cause analysis, and collecting data is a must. But not just safety data, it must be insightful and relevant enough to the accident. Now, there are a lot of possible data collection points that can be used. You just need to be observant and creative enough. And, most of the time, asking meaningful questions of others also helps.

For example, in the previously mentioned case of the machine jam, there are a lot of reasons why it’s very faulty. It might be because its way past its service life, lacks preventive maintenance, improper application, and its usage.

Experimentation Using the Safety Data Will Pinpoint the True Cause

Once you’ve gained insight into the whole machine failure picture and therefore pinpointed possible causes of jamming, the next thing to do is use that information. And you can do so by experimentation.

Using trial and error, tweak one process and see if the behaviors change. Behavior Based Safety is a method that improves the safe behaviors in your workplace and reduce injuries. And then, see if it affects the work process. If it improves, then that means it’s most probably the true cause. Now, if it does not, continue working on the list one by one. It’s important to do this one at a time because if you do it all at once then you’ll never know which causes the problem.

Take Action

The next time you find yourself saying, “They didn’t follow policy.” – start digging deeper into why they weren’t following it.

And if collecting and reading data, has you confused, be sure to sign up for the Safety Analytics Intensive. This class only comes around one time a year and you don’t want to miss it.

Go to to enroll and I will see you in the live class.

Quality Safety Data Can Shine A Light On The True Cause Of Accidents

Safety Brye: [00:00:00] How does it make you feel when you've worked so hard to improve safety at your workplace and you still walk in every day or maybe every other day and see things that don't just make your head shake, but like heats up your anger like you are taking this personally. And although it may feel like a personal attack on your department or your work, it's not, and finding what's causing these unsafe.

Is actually where you need to be spending your time. So that's what we're gonna talk about today, my safety friend.

Hey there, safety friends. Welcome to the Safety Geek Podcast. I'm Brye Sargent CSP and 20 years safety professional. After spending years training safety leaders across the globe for a large corporation and creating safety programs from the ground up over and over again. I am now sharing my processes and

[00:01:00] strategies with you. At the Safety Geek, you will learn how to manage an effective safety program that increases your management support, and employee engagement, all the while helping you elevate your position and move up in your career. If you're ready to step into the role of a safety influencer and leader, you're in the right place. Let's get to it.

Hello. Hello. Hello, and how are you doing today? Now I am super excited cuz this is a huge week for the safety geek. I have a lot going on. So before I get started, I wanted to share with you and remind you that the safety analytics intensive that I will be teaching live is starting tomorrow and it is not too late to join.

So if you have not signed up yet, be sure that you go to I only teach this class one time a year,

[00:02:00] and we are diving deep into safety analytics and how to create a safety trending system. Now, I've broken this live training down into three afternoon sessions to make it easier on you, and we start tomorrow, January 24th at 3:00 PM Eastern Standard time.

Yeah, we're in standard time and we meet again at the same time on Wednesday and Thursday. And these are online meetings, but we are live, so there's lots of opportunities for questions along the way. And if you can't make it, you do get access to the replays. And one of the reasons why I'm breaking it up into three sessions is to actually give you time to kind of ingest the information and then come the next day to gain more clarity or to, you know, review anything that maybe you didn't quite understand fully from the day before. And on top of that, 30 days after the last class, we're gonna get together again for

[00:03:00] another live session because I know once you start implementing this stuff, questions are gonna bubble up. You're gonna wanna review something. So I like to make sure my students feel fully supported. So this will give you your chance to talk again and talk through those issues again.

And that way I can make sure you are all set. So as you can tell I am a numbers nerd, and I have always let my safety data actually drive my decisions and focus in on my program. So today we're talking about not taking the actions of others personally, and instead using your data to root out what is causing all of those bad behavior.

Now, before we start off, you need to understand that like safety is a huge core value of mine. It's probably one of the top three core values. And you might be thinking, well, this should be a core value of every safety person, but

[00:04:00] that's not necessarily true, and it doesn't have to be true for you to be good at your job. I have seen safety people not follow their own safety rules many, many times, and I've seen them take huge risks outside of work. So maybe you don't take unsafe behaviors as personally as I do. So this is definitely a heated topic for me when I see somebody that I put all this work to protect them and then they're still making stupid errors.

So maybe you don't look at it the same way I do, but what I will tell you is that I had to reconcile that not everyone thinks of safety the way that I do, and I had to reconcile what to do when safety programs I worked so hard on, weren't being followed as I planned, and you may see this in your workplace as well.

In fact, not following safety policies is usually the top contributing cause in most accident investigations. But instead of stopping at that, well, they're just not following policies.

[00:05:00] What you should be doing is diving deeper and asking why aren't they following the policies? And this is where having a data driven safety system helps you root out the true cause of accidents.

Because if I have a recognized hazard and I've created a mitigation plan to reduce or eliminate that hazard, the accident wouldn't have happened if the policy was followed. So it becomes like that is the root cause. Like if they followed the policy, they wouldn't have got hurt. That's the definition of root cause.

But if we don't dive deeper, we're not getting to the true causes of those accidents. So let me give you an example. So let's say that you have a piece of machinery that has lots of moving parts, but it regularly gets jammed and it's creating a situation where employees need to reach into the machine to unjam it. Now the proper way to unjam any machinery is to use lockout

[00:06:00] tagout because that guarantees that the machine is completely shut down from power. It actually disconnects the power and then it won't cycle when the jam is cleared. And safety interlocks don't do that. Safety interlocks, the power is still going to the machine.

It's just preventing movement. And then what happens is that when you unjam something, there's the risk that it's going to cycle after the jam is cleared. But employees, they will routinely open up a machine without lockout tagout to unjam the machine because they believe that the inner lock has stopped the machine enough and that they're safe enough.

I like to consider like lockout tagout, like a light switch, like if I am putting up a new light or a ceiling fan or something like that in my home and I turn off the light switch. Yeah, it's gonna stop the power to the light switch. That's like an interlock. I can change a light bulb, right? But if I'm actually gonna be reaching into the machine and putting my hands where like the

[00:07:00] live wires are and everything. I'm actually better off turning it off at the breaker. So that's kind of how I kind of look at things with like interlocks versus actual powering down of the machine because there's still the risk when you're just depending upon interlocks. You could tell I'm very passionate about lockout tagout as well. So anyway, depending upon the size of the machinery, you know, the workaround that they're using could actually be, you know, greater than they realize.

So there's a lot of issues when you have people reaching in the machine. Maybe you have something similar to this and you've developed this mitigation plan and you know, this is the proper way to unjam the machine, but they're just not following it. And you could easily say if somebody's hand got caught in the machine or got injured from the machine, you can easily say, well, we have a policy.

And they didn't follow it. And in fact, I had this happen to me where we had a policy, a lockout tagout policy, and they didn't follow it, and the person was still injured and life-threatening

[00:08:00] injury. Right. So is it the person's fault or is there something more that the company could have done? Right? And this is where data can help you identify the cause of all those unsafe acts, which may or may not lead to an accident.

You know, I've had them lead to accidents. I've had them not leave to accidents. So what you have to look at is the situation as a whole. So let's use my example. It's why it was so detailed, is that like, if that was our example, you need to ask yourself what are the data points in this situation? So when you're not taking it personally, you're just like, okay, this is what they're doing.

Let me collect all the data and figure out why they're doing what they're doing. So if I'm looking at this situation, I would go like, how many times does the machine jam. How long does it take to unjam it properly versus how long does it take when they're doing it their way? And then I actually say, okay, how long is the machine down? How long is the production time down? I would also look at the product that

[00:09:00] they're producing that's causing the jam. Is one product crossing a jam more often than another product? What are the production levels? How fast is the machine going, or how slow is the machine going? Other data points would be the training.

How often are they trained? When are they trained? How frequently are they trained? Are we doing observations to make sure they understand the training? Are we coaching them on the safe work practices? How many times are they bypassing the machine and the supervisor is or is not saying something to them and corrects it?

What is the PM of the machine? How are we maintaining this? And then I would also interview employees and supervisors and ask them all the same types of questions, like what is their opinion about the situation? And then all of that becomes data points. And what you'll realize is that some of these data points are not numbers, but when you've collected all of this data and that this is a true investigation into why a work behavior is not being

[00:10:00] followed, when you've collected all this data, it starts to tell you a story. This is why having data that isn't necessarily numbers related also helps you, helps you create that story. And your immediate reaction may just be like, well, if you just follow the policy, this wouldn't have happened. But when you're looking at the data, you will likely pinpoint several things that are contributing to the poor work behavior.

You know, and this is when you actually stop blaming the employee. And you start looking at the environment that that employee is in, and this is actually called an attribution error. This is something all human beings do. When something bad happens, we blame the person first instead of looking at the situation that cause that person to have those actions. You'll see this in everything in life, not just in work. But if we were to put ourselves in their

[00:11:00] situation, we would say the situation is what caused it. Like if we were in their shoes, we would say, the environment is what caused me to do this, which is likely what that person is saying too. So don't get stuck in that attribution error.

And when you really start looking at the environment, this is when you really get to the root cause of accidents. Too often we're saying it's the employee, but it's not. It's the environment. And there are things that we can do as a company to change that behavior. And the trick is when you're doing this right, so you've collected all of your data, it's starting to tell you a story.

You've pinpointed several things that are contributing to the poor behavior. Pick one thing and tweak it, and then see if the behavior changes. You only change one thing at a time. If it changes you're good, move on to the next bad behavior and start researching that. If it doesn't change the behavior, then try something else on your

[00:12:00] list. You never want to change everything all at once because then you will never know what the catalyst for improving that behavior was. You'll never know, was it the first thing I tried, or the third thing or the second thing. If you do them all at once, you'll have no idea, but if you do them one at a time, Then you'll know the exact thing that changed their behavior from not following the safe work method to following the safe work method.

And likely you have the same issues with other unsafe behaviors in your workplace. So if you can identify in one area, then you can go, okay, I need to take this and I need to apply it to this other unsafe work behavior and see if it change it. Once again, just doing one thing at a time and this actually compounds the effect of your results. So yeah, you might have done a lot of hard work on that machinery issue, but then you're gonna

[00:13:00] apply what you learned from that and put it to your slip and fall issue or your driving issue, whatever it happens to be, and see if it's like an overall culture issue. And it starts to become just a series of trial and errors.

That's what safety management is, but each trial is getting you closer and closer to zero, and it's getting you to better understand the cause of accidents. But you have to understand that it's all data driven and it is not personal. And that you're dealing with human beings who were raised differently than you, that have different experiences than you, and don't have the same knowledge as you have, and all of those things is what creates their current behavior. So as we are shaping the behaviors of our

[00:14:00] employees and getting them to follow our safe work behaviors, we have to consider the whole person. And then you have to consider also that it's not just one person. You have a whole team of people with all different aspects. So don't take it personally and just use the data to give you ideas of different things to try and then start your trial and error.

So the next time that you find yourself saying they didn't follow policy, and throwing your hands up and being like, that's it, that's the root cause of the accident. I want you to start digging deeper into why they weren't following the policy. And remember that attribution error. And stop making it. Start looking at the environment that caused them to take those actions.

And if collecting data or trending data has you confused, be sure that you sign up for the safety analytics intensive. Even if you're busy for the next

[00:15:00] three days. I get it. It's last minute. You'll get access to the replays. So I only teach this class once a year, so you don't wanna miss it. So just go to to enroll, and I will see you in the live class, and we will chat again next week.

Bye for now, safety friend.

Hey, if you're just getting started in safety or you've been at this for a while and are hitting a roadblock. Then I wanna invite you to check out Safety Management Academy. This is my in-depth online course that not only teaches you the processes and strategies of an effective safety management program, but how to entwine management support and employee participation throughout your processes.

Are you ready to finally understand exactly what you should be doing and ditch that safety police hat forever? Then you have got to join me and your

[00:16:00] fellow safety scholars over at Safety Management Academy. Just go to to learn more and to get started. That's and I will see you in our next students only live session.

Bye for now.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • Safety Data Can Help Identify the Cause of Unsafe Act
  • Not Following Policies Is One of the Top Contributing Cause in Most Accident Investigations
  • A Data Driven System Helps Root Out the True Cause of Accidents
  • Collected Data Can Start Telling You a Story
  • When Doing the Solution, Do Not Change Everything at Once
  • Safety Data Can Pinpoint Poor Behavior in Your Workplace


In summary, if there is an accident occurred and the cause is not following safety policy, then there might be an underlying reason behind it-the true cause. And data can help you find it.

Now, if you want to improve your data collection and analytics. I’m holding an intensive training and you can join by registering on

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Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)!  I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience.  Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world.   I would love to help you too.

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