ISHN interviewed former ASSP President Mark Hansen at the Safety 2022 conference in Chicago, and Mark highly recommends reading the book, “Deep Work,” by Cal Newport and published in 2017.
“Deep Work” does not directly address workplace safety, but its application is obvious. In summary:
• Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. This of course is a pre-requisite for working safely.
• Shallow work is non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style work, often performed while distracted. Shallow work is common, and the lack of cognitive demands can cause hazardous conditions and at-risk behavior.
According to the author, “The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.”
That’s what safety professionals want in their employees: a deep work habit that goes beyond mere good intentions. After all, no one consciously intends on getting hurt on the job. Safety pros also want workers to be in that state of unbroken concentration. Willpower alone is not enough to achieve unbroken concentration and focus.
The core components of so-called “deliberate practice” that can be coached by safety pros are: (1) focus attention tightly on a specific skill an employee is trying to improve or an idea they are trying to master; (2) give feedback so employees can correct their approach to keep their attention exactly where it’s most safe and productive.
Cal Newport, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University, Washington, DC.
“Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” is published by Grand Central Publishing and is available in paperback on Amazon.