Sit-on belt habit risk

On my lunchtime stroll, walking the office dog, I pass the nearby construction site that has been going for near on 6 months, if not more now. It’s a relatively simple road reconstruction of one of the main routes into this suburb of Edinburgh. It’s been to source of many a pondering thought and never ceases to provide great behavioural observations. Today was no exception.

There are two front tipping dump trucks, a large one, about 9 tonnes and a smaller one. There are a couple mini diggers, a roller and a front loader amongst other things. It’s a wet day, warm but wet. The guys are levelling type 1, moving stone and compacting.

I spot one of the guys jump on the large dumper, he moves it a few meters out of the way. The green light is flashing but I didn’t see him fasten his seat belt. He jumps off. Yep, the seat belt is fastened already and he was just sitting on it.

Well, it was only a couple meters I suppose.

I walk on… there’s another dumper, the smaller one. a chap is on it, it’s moving slowly up the construction site. The green light is flashing. Surely he fastened his belt and is securely clipped in…

Nope, he is sitting on it too.

But he was driving slowly and the ground was relatively flat.

I haven’t stopped thinking about this all afternoon. It’s easy to take the stance that both of these guys should have fastened their seatbelts. It’s easy to take a zero tolerance route, show no leeway or empathy and demand compliance. But would you buckle up if all you were doing was moving your car a couple of meters in the driveway?

What I saw happens on multiple sites, multiple times in a day. Not only does it happen a lot, most of the time the operator does not get injured. Was there a real risk to these two operators for the behaviour they did today? It was only a couple of meters, it was flat as a pancake.

The problem however is that it can becomes the norm. Sitting on the seat belt becomes a habit rather than a risk based choice.

But was it a habit for these guys, what’s it the norm? How can you tell from just one observation?

I’m home now and my curiosity is getting the better of me. I left the house and drove to the site. It’s 830pm, getting dark and it’s pouring with rain. There would be no work happening but that’s ok, it wasn’t the working behaviours I wanted to see.

I wanted to see how they had left the site. Or more precisely, how they had left the vehicles they were driving. Were the seat belts still fastened?

Yes, I know, I should get a life, but human behaviour really fascinates me.

I had a hunch… but was I right?

All the plant had been carefully and neatly parked at the side of the road, inside the site fences. I could only see the belts of the two forward tipping dump trucks and the roller, I couldn’t see inside the mini-diggers.

The smaller dumper and the roller both still had the seatbelts fastened. I’m not a gambler but I bet these belts were not retrospectively fastened once the operators got off.

This doesn’t mean that this is the norm, but everything is pointing towards that. It would be really interesting to observe the start of the next shift to see if the operators just carry on as if it’s the norm or if they stop, in amusement at the sight of the fastened seat belt, announcing to their supervisor – “nice try mate, I’m not falling for the old pre-fastened seat belt trick.”

One day, it will be more than a couple meters, one day the ground won’t be flat.

This isn’t a good habit to get into.

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