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Several studies have shown that business accidents are due in 80% of cases to human errors. Starting from this data, it is obvious that to reduce injuries it is more appropriate and effective to start from the analysis of human behavior, to then understand how to change it.

The key to greater safety is to modify the so-called “subjective variables”, that is, those variables related to the perception that people have of the concept of safety, and which are distinguished from the “objective variables” which instead represent the set of rules, procedures and safety devices. While the objective variables are easily identifiable, determinable and modifiable, the subjective ones, on the other hand, escape the control of management, but nevertheless they are precisely those on which, by intervening, the greatest impact can be had, as they are decisive for the percentage of accidents mentioned above. at the beginning of the article, for which human behavior is responsible.

To recap: we can achieve more by changing the perception of what is dangerous than by imposing new rules to follow.

To do this we must take into account that the result of the perception of risk is based on the filters that each of us takes to decode reality, so we see what our brain is used to “seeing” in the sense of understanding reality. To give an example: we often associate the image of hippos with positive emotions and we “interpret” it according to our filters as a placid animal that also inspires a sense of tenderness … Well, hippos are extremely dangerous and aggressive animals and cause around 500 deaths worldwide each year. If we were close to a hippo during a safari in Africa, our perception of the concept of safety, if based on the common and erroneous ideas we have of these animals, could put us in grave danger.

In the business environment, the key is therefore to operate an intervention to educate the ability to recognize the filters that influence our perceptions. Since these filters are built over time based on our experiences, what often happens is that, since accidents are rare events, we associate a perception of non-dangerousness with potentially dangerous activities because “so far nothing has ever happened”. In fact, some research shows that people tend to overestimate the risks associated with rare events and underestimate those associated with ordinary and routine activities.

There are also other “cognitive traps”, elements linked for example to the reference group, whether it be business or social, which can lead us to wrong perception. For example, if on a construction site, the wearer of the helmet is made fun of by those who do not wear it, we will be pushed to adapt to the majority and to avoid the judgments of others, although no judgment can hurt you more than a beam on the head.

In conclusion: it is very human to interpret reality incorrectly and for this very reason it is the task of management to foresee and prevent this trend, especially when it comes to safety.



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