Make “Practicable” a Habit

 In 2023, Tip of the Week


Practicable in safety terms is when something is sensible or reasonable to do, and it is worth the cost, either financially or in terms of human effort. Take wearing a seat belt in a vehicle. The seat belt does not cost extra when purchasing the vehicle. It does not take a lot of effort to use, and, knowing that wearing a seat belt can reduce injuries if something were to happen, it makes a lot of sense to do so. The use of seat belts is practicable.


Habituation is a term that has growing interest in the safety field. It means to become increasingly accustomed to something. This can be both good and bad. For example, let’s go back to our previous example, seat belts. The last time you sat down in your vehicle, you probably fastened your seat belt. Did you have to think about it? Maybe, but maybe you did not give buckling your seat belt much thought. It has become a habit. You are habituated to using the seat belt, which is good. And since we have that habit, we don’t have to think about it leaving our brains with more capacity to deal with other things such as backing out into traffic.


However, what if you had a loud noise at work? It could be that where you work, a loud generator constantly hums. After a while, you might grow so used to hearing the generator that it does not bother you, which is also an example of habituation. You might be tempted to not use hearing protection properly when near the generator. Not using the hearing protection could affect your hearing, which is not good.


According to an article in Scientific American (here’s a link, if you want to read the article) on creating habits, it takes an average of 66 days to create a habit. In other words, if you were to wear your hearing protection as you work in noisy environments for about two months and a week, you are likely to create a good habit. You would be habituated to doing something that is practicable. Hearing protection is exactly what it sounds like. It helps you to not lose or harm your hearing. It doesn’t cost much, as employers are required to provide hearing protection when loud noises are anticipated or expected. And it helps you in the long run.


At SCM, we like to say, “Make it easy to do the right thing and make it hard to do the wrong thing.” What are some of the right things? We’ve talked about buckling seat belts in vehicles. And you probably thought of the seat belt in your personal car or truck. But what about seat belts on industrial trucks? Most forklifts come with seat belts. Do you use them while driving that forklift?


Have you ever been to a work site where there are loud noises? Have you seen workers walking around with their hearing protection dangling around their necks, not in their ears? We have. It’s easy to insert those plugs, and that would be the right thing to do. 66 days seems like a long time, but there is a reward for creating good habits. You get to go home at the end of your shift, you are healthier for it, and it didn’t cost you much.


Our weekly challenge is for you and your coworkers to think about what you have become habituated to. Are there things in your workplace that you don’t really see, or hear, because you have become accustomed to them? And what things do you do right? What good habits have you formed? What is practicable for you to do?

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