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Getting operatives to engage in housekeeping

2 min read: Getting operatives to dispose of waste correctly is a surprisingly common frustration from many supervisors and managers in the manufacturing industry. I say surprisingly, because these people are often getting their guys to carry out very complex task based behaviours, but they just can’t get them to tidy their stuff up, leading to an unsafe and unpleasant environment. As with many things, making some really small changes to the work environment brings about disproportionate improvement and that’s what a team of supervisors did at a manufacturing plant. Frustrated with constantly having to chase their guys to correctly dispose of waste, they decided to use some basic behavioural principles to make the housekeeping behaviours they wanted more likely.

Here’s what worked for them: Make it easy – they provided lots of bins and moved them nearer to where the waste was generated. Placing them even 20 metres away made the behaviour of disposing of waste material less likely. They made sure the bins were regularly emptied. In all cases this made the behaviour much more likely to occur as they reduced the effort required. Visual prompts – many of the desired behaviours required an understanding of what should be placed in which bin or sorted onto which pallet. The guys had been trained in this, but in the workplace, faced with many options and the pressure of production deadlines, they struggled to recall what should go where. Visually labelling bins or pallets with the waste that should be deposited in them made it less effortful for them to get it right. Day to day local conversations – local leaders set expectations and gave feedback to their guys on a daily basis. Whilst the workers didn’t always respond to the expectations set by the corporate Health and Safety team, they were much more likely to do the required behaviour when expectations were set by the local manager, who later followed up with feedback when observing any improvement, no matter how small. Within four weeks the supervisors saw an improvement in of 78% across the plant.

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