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Understanding the Four Factor S.A.F.E. Model - Exhibiting Caution

April 6, 2016

exhibits-caution.pngAs we wrap up our series dedicated to reviewing the S.A.F.E. model, we’ll be going over the final piece of the puzzle, Exhibits Caution. As with the other three factors, an employee’s behaviors as they relate to Exhibiting Caution are determined by where they fall on several smaller, sub-factors that make up this psychological factor.

Boiled down to its components, Exhibits Caution is made up of one’s overall comfort level with risk and one’s level of impulsivity. Whether or not an individual leans towards or away from thrill-seeking, risky, and spontaneous behavior tells us a lot about their safety on the job. Is a given individual the type of person that prefers to think carefully before they act? Or do they tend to dive headfirst into an unknown situation, trying to make it up as they go? Are they generally comfortable in situations where there is an inherently higher level of risk? If so, they may be naturally lower on the Exhibits Caution factor.

When it comes to adhering to safety rules and regulations in the workplace, ten out of ten safety managers are going to prefer an individual who tends to think before acting, places high value on taking calculated actions, and displays caution on the job. This ties somewhat into one of our recent posts in this series about the Follows Rules factor, in that employees who view rules and guidelines as obstacles and hindrances, rather than protocols designed to keep them safe, are less likely to be safe workers.

If you believe that either you, or any of your direct reports (if you’re a supervisor), might be prone to a certain level of risk or impulsive behavior and wish to reduce your personal exposure in this area, there are steps that can be taken to get to that point.

  • Going back again to the recent Follows Rules posts, taking the time to really emphasize why and how caution should be exhibited in specific situations makes a much stronger impression on an employee than just telling them what to do without clarifying at all. Telling a welder, “Always put on your protective eyewear”, is a lot less powerful than, “Always put on your protective eyewear, stray sparks will end up near your face and have blinded people in the past”. Even though it could be obvious, the second version of the message holds a lot more weight, and gives the employee a reason to take the time to exhibit caution, much more so than the first example, which is just an order with no reasoning behind it.

  • Try to think critically about which aspects of your job are most important to exhibit caution in. If you try to suddenly increase your vigilance at work tenfold in every aspect of your job, you may overextend yourself. Trying to prioritize where it is essential to be as careful as possible will help develop the skills needed to identify when and how to exhibit caution more effectively, and will spill over to your less critical tasks in time.

  • Make a conscious effort to include more caution-related behaviors into your work. Deliberately double check your tools and orders, think about possible outcomes, and never assume anything. Even if you know with 100% certainty what you’re double checking or thinking through, it will help establish good habits and you’ll begin confirming details and thinking critically about the task at hand without even thinking about it.

If you already feel pretty confident in this area, and you have a good handle on being cautious at work, try thinking about your tasks and duties from a preventative perspective. As someone with a solid history of exhibiting cautious behavior on the job, your experience and knowledge may be valuable, especially to new employees. Reach out to see if you can contribute to existing safety policies and procedures, either updating them or reinforcing them where appropriate. Helping others improve their ability to Exhibit Caution will only help make your workplace safer overall, and could even help boost your skills in this area higher than they already are.

Four Behaviors of Safe Leaders - The L.E.A.D. Model

Greg Kedenburg Greg Kedenburg is an I/O Psychologist who previously worked for PSI. He is living and working in Chicago, IL.