Personal Protective Equipment, Personnel Safety

A Nudge-Led Approach to Hand Safety

By Superior Glove, leading safety glove innovator

Did you know that small changes “nudges” in the environment can influence safer decisions and promote positive behavior? This theory is a concept in behavioral science that proposes subtle, indirect suggestions can effectively influence the behavior and decision-making processes of individuals and groups. By making slight tweaks to surroundings, we can create nudges that help workers make safer choices themselves. Unlike forceful interventions, nudges are subtle and maintain freedom of choice.

The science behind nudge theory

Our brains have two main systems that guide our decisions:

The Thought-Based System that is slow and thorough and takes the time to plan and evaluate different paths before acting. This is the system that leads us to read safety manuals and think twice before handling hazardous materials.

The Instinct-Based System that is all about quick reactions, gut feelings, and immediate responses. It’s the system that makes you instinctively pull your hand away from a hot surface, but it might also lead you to remove safety gloves because they’re uncomfortable This is where nudge theory comes into play. It allows us to tap into our instinct-based system, which usually drives around 90% to 95% of our daily decisions.

How nudge theory applies to hand safety

Now, you might be thinking, “How does this nudge theory work for hand safety?” By incorporating carefully crafted and well-placed nudges, you can influence workers to practice safer choices rather than bossing them around. Strategies like visual direction, feedback, social proofing, and timely delivery create a powerful nudge system that can enhance hand safety in the workplace.

Let’s take a closer look.

Visual direction

Often, the most effective method of communication isn’t through written words—it’s through visual direction. Icons, symbols, and other visual cues provide universal guidance, especially when language barriers exist. These visual nudges offer a sense of ease and direction, helping individuals make safer choices effortlessly. For example, an illustration of all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for the tasks at hand at the entrance of a job site serves as a reminder for workers to wear the right PPE.


Feedback mechanisms play a crucial role in shaping behavior, especially in high-risk environments like manufacturing and construction. Just like traffic lights guide our actions on the road, visual feedback cues—such as blinking lights or alarms—prompt individuals to adjust their behavior accordingly.

Social proofing

Social proofing is the influence that actions and behaviors have on each other. In a workplace setting, this could be seeing everyone wearing the same type of safety gloves, prompting everyone to follow. This social pressure can be used to promote safety norms and the proper use of PPE.

Timely information

Timing is crucial when it comes to decision-making. Supplying the right information at the right time can help support good decision-making. Imagine a worker about to operate a piece of machinery. A timely visual cue like a safety sticker with an image of a particular glove should be worn when operating the machine reminds them to put on their safety gloves.

Quick tips for implementing nudge theory in the workplace

Be a tourist in your own company: Record and document everything. Map out worker journeys and routines to identify potential hazards and areas for improvement.

Homemade signs: Homemade signs can be valuable indicators of safety concerns. Pay attention to these informal cues and address them promptly.

Get outside perspective: Sometimes, it takes an outsider’s view to spot hidden dangers. Invite experts or consultants to evaluate your workplace and gain fresh insights.

Mind the reality gap: Be aware of the gap between safety policies on paper and actual practices on the ground. Bridge this reality gap by actively involving workers in safety initiatives and addressing their concerns.

Reward safe actions: Instead of focusing solely on injury rates, reward and recognize safe behaviors. Positive reinforcement encourages a culture of safety and motivates individuals to prioritize their well-being.

Beware your biases: Be mindful of cognitive biases such as overconfidence, confirmation bias, and recency bias. These biases can cloud judgment and lead to overlooking potential risks.

Look and feel is important: Pay attention to the quality of your PPE. Emphasizing comfort and style can go a long way in positively influencing safety behavior.

Location, location, location: Ensure convenient access to PPE by strategically placing them in accessible locations.

Language and culture: Understanding the different cultures that make up your workforce is key to ensuring a safe workplace. Make sure training and materials are available in all languages spoken at your workplace and ensure safety signs can be understood without knowledge of English.

Don’t reinvent the wheel: Learn from existing best practices and industry standards. Don’t hesitate to adopt proven safety measures rather than starting from scratch.

Learn more

Don’t stop your hand safety learning! Check out the most comprehensive guide on hand safety “ReThinking Hand Safety” to delve deeper into the world of nudge theory and its applications in workplace safety. The book also explores how the world’s safest companies have reduced injuries with more than PPE and practical and effective hand safety tips and tricks that you can use to improve your hand safety program. Click here.


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