Brian Dishman

Brian Dishman is a Senior Consultant at Select International. He educates safety leaders on the internal factors that impact employee safety. Brian focuses on safety leadership, safety culture development, and the psychology of safety.
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Recent Posts

Two Simple Questions that can Improve Your Personal Safety

Posted by  Brian Dishman

In previous blogs, we've discussed how our intuitive system impacts our decision making. Cognitive biases such as the overconfidence effect, ostrich effect, availability heuristic, social proof, and many other heuristics impact decision making and our personal safety. Several blog readers have asked us how to avoid the potential safety negative outcomes of these mental “rules of thumb.”


How the "Overconfidence Effect" Affects Employee Safety

Posted by  Brian Dishman

This is Part 5 of our series on how cognitive biases affect workplace safety. Click here to read Part 1, click here for Part 2, here is Part 3, and click here for Part 4.

“Don’t worry I got this” is a dangerous phrase. The overconfidence effect is a cognitive bias that frequently leads to recordable incidents and a lot of near misses. The overconfidence effect has been studied extensively within the context of decision making and risk taking.

A well-known study asked drivers to compare the safety of their driving to the other drivers participating in the study. 88% indicated that they were safer than the average driver. 60% said that they think they are one of the top 20% in terms of driving safely. Clearly there is a disconnect between perceived ability and reality. This is the overconfidence effect and it can be deadly.


How the Theory of Risk Compensation Affects Your Personal Safety

Posted by  Brian Dishman

Prior to 1967 Swedes drove on the left-hand side of the road. Högertrafikomläggningen is the day that Sweden switched all traffic to the right-hand side of the road. Picture that scenario. Imagine driving in the opposite direction on familiar streets, looking over a different shoulder while changing lanes, or reflexively reaching for the shifter with the wrong hand. You'd be trying to overcome years of muscle memory and habits.

Now imagine all of your fellow motorists suddenly experiencing this together on the road. Scary? You might think it was a rough time for Swedish car insurance representatives.

You’d be wrong.


How Does Social Proof Affect Your Workplace Safety Culture?

Posted by  Brian Dishman

This is part 4 of our series on how cognitive biases affect workplace safety. Click here to read Part 1, click here for Part 2, and here is part 3.

Rules don’t drive employee behavior. Watch the below video.

This classic Candid Camera segment illustrates the powerful impact of social proof on human behavior. Social proof is the psychological phenomenon where people match the actions of others in an attempt to display correct behavior for a given situation.


How Can the Ostrich Effect Negatively Impact Workplace Safety?

Posted by  Brian Dishman

This is part 3 of our series on how cognitive biases affect workplace safety. Click here to read Part 1, click here for Part 2, and here is Part 4.

A few weeks ago I had two problems that occurred almost simultaneously at my home:

Problem #1: Occasionally my wife and I would hear some strange scratching sounds right above our bedroom at night.

Problem #2: The air handler component of my A/C system was leaking water.

How did I prioritize and act on these problems? I wish I could say that my logical system kicked in for these decisions, but as readers of this blog series should know it was the intuitive system driving my behavior.


How the Availability Heuristic Affects Your Personal Safety at Work

Posted by  Brian Dishman

This is part 2 of our workplace safety series on how cognitive biases affect safety. Click here to read Part 1, click here for Part 3, and here is Part 4.

At a family gathering, my cousin expressed concern about his dad’s lifelong smoking habit. His dad slyly replied, “I been smoking my entire life and I ain’t dead yet.”

The availability heuristic is our tendency to overestimate the importance of information that is most immediately available to us. The immediacy of the information holds more power than the accuracy or completeness of the information. A personal anecdote is more powerful than an actuarial table because of the availability heuristic. It is the part of our intuitive system that internally whispers “it won’t happen to me” because the potential negative consequences of a behavior are not immediately available to our attention.


How Cognitive Biases Affect Your Personal Safety

Posted by  Brian Dishman

This is part 1 of our workplace safety series on how cognitive biases affect safety. Click here to read Part 2, click here for Part 3, and here is Part 4.

Personal safety is an outcome of decision making. Consciously identifying and considering risk factors before acting will lower the odds of negative safety outcomes over time. Unfortunately, we humans aren’t completely rational decision makers. In fact, some neuroscience and psychological studies over the past decade indicate that our decision making is much more irrational than we previously would have imagined.

Nobel Prize winning, Princeton University Prof. Daniel Kahneman’s research indicates that we have two systems of thinking. One system is logical, deliberate, and analytically pursues rational answers to problems. We are aware of this part of our mind. It’s good at making decisions but it requires a lot of energy. If our mind is a computer the logical system is the program that causes our mind, fan spinning, to overheat with effort.


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