Mindfulness: A Crucial Aspect of Operational Safety

Bruce Lee once said: “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” This saying especially applies to workplace accident prevention. Why? Because all workplace accidents are avoidable with proper risk acknowledgment and precautionary steps.

A crucial yet sometimes overlooked step is encouraging and practicing mindfulness, combining the mind and body to eliminate stress and a lack of workplace focus. This state should permeate an entire organization, at every step of operations, in order to truly be useful.

Stress Means Workplace Risk

There are no “random” work accidents. Most incidents occur when employees and managers are suffering physical and mental stress and take their eyes off the proverbial “operational safety ball.” This can lead to a dangerous work environment: Studies indicate that up to 80% of workplace accidents occur because of stress as it causes a lack of focus on work tasks. Without the presence of a focused, relaxed, and alert mind, workers are thrown off their game and allow errors and oversights to creep into process execution and cause substandard performance.

The physical symptoms associated with stress—headaches, anger, nervousness, fatigue, and more—can prevent safe execution of workplace tasks. And as we have previously discussed, safety is crucial for, among others:

  • Compliance
  • Employee retention
  • Cost savings
  • Productivity

Stress is very common—more than 83% of American workers suffer from work-related stress. Of those survey respondents, 25% claim their work is their main and core stressor. Truly, stress is a debilitating problem that harms the implementation of workplace safety best practices and threatens almost all aspects of workplace productivity.

Eliminating Workplace Stress

Luckily, however, there are ways to mitigate stress to enable safer operations—by encouraging mindfulness at every step of operations. What is mindfulness? One industry magazine defines it as: “A practice that heightens our awareness, a tool that allows you to be responsive instead of reactive, and a method to help quiet constant brain chatter.” Its opposite is mindlessness. The same article states: “Mindlessness is habitual, automatic, repetitive behavior generally brought on by multi-tasking. It can directly impact an individual's overall wellness, stress level, listening skills, injury risk and safety, and more.”

A mindful state means true cognitive focus, focus that creates a deep awareness of work surroundings and of one’s own current state of mind within those work surroundings—where one is and what they need to do to safely perform a work task. With this awareness often comes conscious intent for, and a better understanding of, interactions with colleagues and insights into how each person’s own individual actions affect the group.

Mindfulness: Key Alignment Tool

Achieving mindfulness helps align the body and mind, ensuring every task is done with intentional safety at the forefront. With the focus that comes from this alignment, a worker has a unique awareness of their own thought processes. They see the patterns behind their ways of thinking—which can offer insights into problem solving and accident reduction.

For example, consider a worker interacting with engineering controls. If they can focus deeply and consciously on understanding how they work, the insights they generate can enable them to better think, apply best practices, and take control of their own safety responsibilities. They will be empowered to reduce risk and be better colleagues and workers.

As a worker becomes more present and focused on the job, they can also better understand their own:

  • Emotional triggers that prevent safety
  • Relative operating strength and weaknesses
  • Job goals and objectives

This can enable them to become more proactive and self-motivated to knowingly achieve safety goals to the best of their ability. They will be thoughtful and deliberate rather than reactive and passive safety practitioners and advocates. Such conscientious employees can build exceptional trust among their teammates and become safety champions across all aspects of operations.

Mindfulness and stress have an inverse relationship—mindfulness can help reduce stress, and decreasing stress increases focus, resulting in safer operations. In fact, it has been proven that employees who practice mindfulness are more productive, safe, and resilient.

Mindfulness Affects All Areas of Work Life

Mindfulness can be utilized daily by management and the workforce alike to reduce stress and improve focus—which will have a holistic impact in every area of the job. It enables:

  • Injury prevention by creating an environment where workers think clearly through each task and ensure safety is at the forefront.
  • Stress reduction—the sort that enables a clear, focused mind in a well-fed and rested body.
  • Adaptability in a changing world and workplace. Mindfulness cultivates the ability to foresee solutions to problems as they arrive and in advance. As the workplace or tasks grow, the worker is prepared to modify their safety behaviors accordingly.

Implementing Mindfulness Best Practices

There are a variety of routes to achieve mindfulness in the workplace. Managers and employees will react to the methods that suit them and the organizational culture best. To best achieve mindfulness, managers and workers should:

  • Slow down and think each task through
  • Use breathing or other relaxational exercises to calm down during times of stress
  • Talk through problems with coworkers
  • Regularly review plans and protocols and make changes if needed, in collaboration with managers and team workers
  • Live a healthy life both in and out of the workplace—including eating right, sleeping well, and more
  • Practice staying present and focused on the job at hand

Workplace best safety practices are essential as they help workers relax and be the best they can be. It is in a manager’s best interest to minimize workplace stress—and an employee’s best interest to manage the stress they feel on the job by practicing mindfulness.

Partnering for Safety

Mindfulness techniques—along with training, proper PPE, machine maintenance, and the like—are a winning combination for risk reduction. Killing stress is a key way to promote worker focus, productivity, and most importantly, safety.

At Triumvirate Environmental, we make it our job to improve efficiency and safety across operations. We work to reduce your stress and share the burden so that your team can focus on core operations.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you stay safe.

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