Learn Workplace Safety From A Prison Movie

Workplace safety improves from watching The Shawshank Redemption? Dr. Timothy Ludwig says we can learn about safety complacency from the movie.

Dr. Tim Ludwig

A prisoner escapes from prison through a tunnel he took 19 years to dig.

Dr. Ludwig has over 25 years experience doing foundational research in Safety Culture Change and is a professor at Appalachian State University.

Dr. Tim says gaps in workplace safety systems are like the prison guard failures in the Shawshank Redemption. He wrote a blog entry on his website, safety-doc.com, referring to plot of this movie from 1994 with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.

Robbins’ character carved through concrete for 19 years. Guards didn’t know because of laziness, complacency and inaction. The same traits at work allow hidden hazards to go unnoticed.

Prison guards were supposed to do nightly bed checks…but didn’t because they figured the prison was so protected, prisoners would never get very far.

This is Behavioral extinction, the prisoners are always in their beds, so why continue bed checks? We can see same in safety programs.

Safety managers may say, “we do meetings, observations, audits…so many things. Dropping one of them one won’t hurt”

Prison guards were supposed to walk the catwalks three times a month, but hadn’t done it in years. Robbins’ character would crawl through the hole in the back of his cell and had free access to the catwalks.

Dr. Ludwig calls these Latent Hazards…those that are not obvious.

Behavioral safety checklists must evolve. The must change with changes in the workplace equipment and personnel.

After the escape, prison guards intimidated and physically assaulted the prisoners to find out what they knew. Safety managers would not go this far, but punishing a worker can have the same effect.

Dr. Ludwig earned his Ph.D. at Virginia Tech in employee-driven behavioral safety programs with Dr. E. Scott Geller. Both will be speaking at the19th People Based Safety Conference Aug. 16-18, 2016 in Roanoke, VA. Sign up at SafetyPerformance.com

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