Addressing safety complacency

Date Posted: 05/18/2020
Addressing Safety Complacency

Many safety professionals have to deal with employees who simply ignore the rules or even knowingly engage in unsafe behaviors. Those workers may claim “nothing bad happened” so there shouldn’t be a problem. However, safety professionals know that every worker injured or killed thought that nothing bad was going to happen.

Addressing complacency requires an ongoing effort with continual reminders. The goal is to change habits, and that will take time, but a successful program should result in higher awareness and fewer accidents.

Explaining complacency

Try explaining complacency using a scenario that should be familiar to everyone: distracted driving. Most likely, some employees checked their phone or adjusted the radio while driving, and suddenly realized they drifted out of their lane. Since they didn’t cause an accident, they do it again a few days or weeks later. That’s complacency.

Next, ask workers how they feel when other drivers do that, and a car drifts into their lane. Most likely, they feel angry that someone else nearly caused an accident. Even drivers who remain focused will see how complacency in others can cause accidents.

Finally, ask them to think about why they engage in risky behaviors that they wouldn’t accept from others. It’s a rhetorical question, so they don’t need to answer. Justifying something unsafe by claiming that nothing bad happened shouldn’t be accepted. After all, those other drivers didn’t cause an accident, so nothing bad happened, right?

Addressing complacency

Increasing awareness is a good start, but complacency may return if employees fall into old habits. Changing habits isn’t easy, as noted, so there’s no simple solution. Constant vigilance is needed, with continual reminders. Options include daily meetings on complacency, posting signs, and support from coworkers and supervisors.

One way for employees to spot problems is by observing others. This should go beyond casual observation, such as shadowing a coworker for an hour or so while watching for safety shortcuts. The workers being observed may even self-diagnose bad habits, since knowing someone is watching likely makes them evaluate their actions.

Eliminating complacency requires a team effort with an ongoing commitment. Getting employees to watch for bad habits (in themselves and others) isn’t easy, but the results should help reduce accidents. Employees who look out for each other work together to make sure everyone goes home without injuries.

How Safety Management Suite Can Help

Like most safety professionals, you’re probably working hard to go beyond the regulatory requirements by implementing best practices. You can find numerous resources in the J. J. Keller® SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE Training area, helping you deliver information that employees need.

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