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The hidden hazards of rushing at work: 5 tips to overcoming them

Panning shot of a moving forklift in a warehouse

Rushing has become a way of life for most of us, but when we do it at work, the chance of incidents and injuries increases substantially.

Consider the following:  

  • A supervisor who has been dealing with production line problems all day rushes through a safety inspection and fails to notice a lockout station has been moved. The line jams and a worker who can’t find the lockout station attempts to clear the block by opening the access gate and reaching in. The worker’s hand is caught in the machine.

  • A forklift driver feeling the pressure to load trucks more quickly zips around the warehouse at a higher than posted speed. The driver is involved in an accident with a pedestrian.

  • Managers racing to get through a packed meeting agenda fail to do a root cause analysis of an important safety problem and no corrective action is taken. Inevitably, the problem re-occurs, and someone is injured.

  • A restaurant worker anxious to get food to customers neglects to clean up a spill. Another worker slips and is injured when their head hits the floor.

What happens when we rush

In a society where faster is better, and demands are ever-increasing, there’s a great deal of pressure on businesses, and subsequently on managers, supervisors and workers to increase productivity. This often results in rushing.

"But when we rush, we can miss important cues, especially unexpected ones, which in turn may result in critical errors,” says WSPS Consulting Services Manager, Hamish Morgan.

Rushing can result in a greater number of injuries, increased stress, and reduced quality of goods and services. “Having to shut down work to deal with an injury or to ‘rework’ poor quality items compounds the pressure to rush.”

The key, says Hamish, is for everyone to work at a pace that’s suitable for the task at hand, to maximize safe production. Multi-tasking is not the answer. “A guiding principle in lean manufacturing is that doing one thing at a time is more time efficient than trying to do multiple things at once."

How do you stop the rush? Hamish has five suggestions:

5 tips to prevent rushing

  1. Be clear about your expectations when it comes to productivity and safety. Ensure you have a positive safety culture that is well communicated. A positive safety culture is one where safety is the top priority for owners, managers, supervisors and workers as demonstrated through workplace policies, programs, procedures and actions.“It’s important for companies to take the time to communicate and visibly demonstrate their true beliefs and values," says Hamish, “so no one is confused.”

  2. Encourage your workforce to work efficiently, but not rush. Hold safety talks to explain the difference and reinforce the negative outcomes of rushing.

  3. Emphasize job preparation. Searching for missing tools or equipment wastes time and puts added pressure on workers to rush to complete jobs.

  4. Ask for feedback. If workers are feeling too much pressure to work quickly, you need to know about it, and take appropriate steps to address the pressure, says Hamish. Likewise, workers may have constructive suggestions about what’s causing delays that lead to rushing.

  5. Include ‘rushing’ in accident investigations and root cause analysis (RCA). “RCAs should be routinely carried out when problems arise (safety or production) to identify proper corrective actions,” says Hamish. “Spending time and money on band-aid solutions that don’t correct the problem only creates even greater pressure, resulting in rushing.” 

How WSPS can help