Designing nudges to improve your world

Chapter Fourteen

Preventing Falls with Pink Walls, London.

Nobel Prize winner Professor Thaler demonstrated in his book ‘Nudge’ how nudging can help people to exercise better self-control, and this is precisely what Cowry did with London’s Shell HQ, reducing unsafe behaviours by over 80%. But this was as much about enhancing staff wellbeing and engagement as it was cutting risk.

With 80,000 construction workers suffering from work related ill-health each year, there had never been a more pressing need for wellbeing in construction to be promoted to the top of the industry’s agenda. And this was successfully done using the application of behavioural science.
Cowry Consulting were brought on board to help Overbury to promote health, safety and well-being at Shell's HQ on London's Southbank. It was an innovative study, which had stellar results, with the level of unsafe behaviours while working at height reducing by 82% in just 12 weeks.
“Because it’s such a high-profile scheme, Overbury wanted a genuinely innovative - if unconventional - approach that could move the dial” says Cowry’s Ziba Goddard.


“It was an admittedly left-field decision in a sector not known for liking change, but nudge theory had started to gain status and momentum, and once we visited the site a few times and explained some of the practical theory it was possible to plan some clear outcomes.”

We saw in this case study covered in Chapter 14, how important it was to start the project with a behavioural audit observing the unsafe shortcuts were being undertaken when working at height or during material movements. Habitual patterns of unsafe behaviour would not be broken by the previous campaigns such as posters warning of the dangers.

Nudges were then used to change behaviour in a co-operative workshop - again bringing in a diverse range of people (as in Chapter 12) using the STARGAZER technique and from this the Cool Canteen was born. Break room walls were painted Baker Miller pink, a colour of paint which has been shown to reduce anxiety, stress and aggression. Plants, softer lighting and communal tables were amongst the other additions to create a space which would not only prime operatives for calmer emotional states, but also make them more likely to take their breaks, and thus improve overall wellbeing.
Before - The Canteen
Screen Shot 2020-02-18 at 17.23.31
After - The Cool Canteen
The cool canteen - after

It was a bold idea and a series of small prompts that help change unsafe behaviours while working at height reducing it by 82% in just 12 weeks. And it didn’t require large financial investment. The Cowry team continue to apply behavioural science to reduce unsafe behaviour in construction with the aim of preventing accidents, and ultimately saving lives

Preventing Falls with Pink Walls Radio 4. 



And here are some further links that bring to life how colour can affect our mood and behaviour across the world!