Coronavirus Safety – A Behavioural Nudge

A simple behavioural nudge making a real difference in Coronavirus safety – some important lessons for safety training.

I was taken by this image of floor spots that many supermarkets are adopting at checkouts to encourage social distancing. You can see it appears to be having the desired effect. It’s a simple, low cost, behavioural nudge that’s making a real difference to Coronavirus safety.


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Why is this working and how can we harness the principles in all health and safety training systems? There’s actually a lot of science behind this type of behavioural nudge.

The first is that you have to show people what “good” looks like. Not in some vague way, but highly context specific. In this example, showing people where they need to stand, as in “you’re 3rd in line – and when you move forwards to 2nd line – that’s where you stand” and so on.

Simple enough right? But how much of your health and safety training gives this kind of context specific guidance? In other words, “when you do this job this is what good looks like”.

Also note the visual format of this guidance. Even if you can’t read what’s on the right circles, once you see people standing on a few of them you intuitively get the idea.  Research shows that this type of visual guidance achieves far better behaviour change than text or verbal coaching.

How much of your health and safety training is in this type of intuitive visual format?

Another key concept at work here is feedback. It’s blindingly obvious if you’re standing on the red spot or not. We can’t go around painting red circles on the floor, but we do need to provide feedback on behaviour if we want to change it.

Again, how much feedback does your health and safety training provide to employees once you’ve shown them what good looks like? And, is the feedback in an intuitive visual format?

These principles have been tested extensively in the training research science base. They work and are highly effective in changing behaviour. If you can find simple and practical ways to harness them in health and safety training you can achieve success.

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