For almost 40 years the author and his students have conducted field studies to develop and evaluate intervention strategies to improve safety-related behaviors in industrial, community, and institutional settings. As a result, a number of evidence-based techniques have been identified to increase the occurrence of safe behavior and/or decrease the frequency of at-risk behavior. Most of these are interpersonal, requiring a safety leader or change agent to target a specific behavior of another person in order to decrease, increase, maintain, or support that behavior. All of these cost-effective intervention strategies can be applied on a large scale for substantial injury prevention, and all have been described in the research literature, along with objective data demonstrating their beneficial impact.
Over the years, the author has described these practical intervention methods in ASSE presentations; and in some cases, attendees have later applied a technique with remarkable success, as revealed in follow-up communication with the author. Never have all of these injury prevention approaches been defined and illustrated in one presentation, which is the purpose of this document. However, before reviewing these interpersonal interventions for injury prevention, it's instructive to consider barriers that prevent the large-scale application and institutionalization of these safety-management procedures. In other words, given their demonstrated effectiveness and practicality, why haven't they been adopted and implemented throughout organizations and communities nationwide in order to help keep people safe?
As with any program designed to change behavior, people could claim they lack the resources and/or time to implement the intervention. Moreover, they could doubt the effectiveness of the behavior-change technique and wonder whether the time to implement the interpersonal intervention is worth the effort. However, these excuses are irrelevant for the techniques described below, because they are straightforward and easy to accomplish with minimal effort. More importantly, empirical research (as cited below) has demonstrated the beneficial impact of these simple interpersonal approaches to promote safety and prevent harm to people. Thus, the standard excuses for inaction cannot work here. So what is the barrier to large-scale implementation of simple-to-use interpersonal methods that clearly benefit everyone involved? The key word is "interpersonal". Each intervention requires personal interaction with other people and it's likely many lack the courage to be such a change agent. This paper defines the level of courage needed, and entertains ways to develop such courage in ourselves and others. In other words, this author addresses this critical question: What does it take for more people to become interpersonal change agents for occupational safety and health? We have effortless evidenced-based techniques to help people prevent harm to themselves and others, but too few people seem to have the courage to use them.
The American Heritage Dictionary (1991) defines courage as "the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger with self-possession, confidence, and resolution" (p. 333).