Loss Control - Complacency


What you can do to enhance awareness and stop complacency

What is complacency? There were 4.4 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses reported in private industry in 2003. Approximately 2.3 million of those cases involved days away from work, job transfer or restricted duty. In the same year, 5,575 American workers were killed in job accidents, and in 2004, fatalities increased 2 percent to 5,703. There are many reasons for these workplace fatalities such as distractions, unguarded hazards, failure to follow safety guidelines and failure to use personal protective equipment. In many cases a primary root cause is complacency.

Complacency is defined as "calm contentment; satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies."

What does complacency actually mean in regards to the workplace? As management, you strive to create a safe working environment for your employees and to eliminate unsafe conditions. If you examined your accident records for the past few years, you'd likely find that the root cause of most of the accidents was unsafe acts rather than unsafe conditions. It has been estimated that 80% to 90% of workplace accidents are the result of unsafe acts. The increasing number of unsafe acts is a primary indicator that workers may be becoming complacent about safety. They may not be paying attention to what they are doing. They may be taking shortcuts and risks. They probably have developed an "It won't happen to me" attitude.

Why does complacency happen? Complacency happens because workers, supervisors and management perform many functions on a continuous basis. Almost all jobs are repetitive in nature, and the more we repeat what we are doing, the better the chance at becoming complacent without even realizing it. Therein lays the potential danger. Utility contractors, equipment operators, electricians, steel workers, machine operators; ever hear anyone say "I can do this job with my eyes closed"!

Employees begin to get in a hurry and take shortcuts on the job. One employee sees a co-worker taking a shortcut and figures, "If he can do it, why can't I?"; They start to become more focused on production and getting the job done than getting it done safely. Managers begin to be satisfied with mediocre safety performance. They don?t bother to correct unsafe behaviors. Workers become convinced that management is not concerned about safety and they begin to think they are not responsible for their own safety. Over time, the emphasis on safe behaviors erodes. We have become complacent.

Unfortunately, it often takes a fatal injury to cause everyone to refocus on safety. Don't let this happen to your organization. Remind all levels of management and supervision that it is unacceptable to permit any unsafe act to occur without addressing it with that employee. Frequently communicate to all employees to focus physically and mentally on their work, no matter how many times they may have done the same job.

Westfield Insurance encourages you to review this information with all your employees. Their actions can prevent injury to co-workers and themselves; as well as prevent loss of property and minimize exposure to your business.

We encourage you to evaluate the status of your company's risk management programs and policies and make enhancements where needed. Your efforts will go a long way towards minimizing your company's exposure and helping control insurance costs.


What you can do to enhance awareness and stop complacency:

Conduct frequent training and tool box talks to discuss:
Employees should be planning and thinking ahead before they start each task and consider:

  • What they'll be doing
  • What they're working with
  • Where they'll be going
  • What could go wrong

Encourage employees to examine the substances, equipment, procedures, and situations that are part of their job and look for possible hazards

Stress the fact that accidents occur in the blink of an eye. All it takes is one second of inattention, one moment of carelessness

Encourage employees to get involved in the following activities:

  • Reporting all unsafe conditions
  • Attending safety meetings
  • Serving on employee safety committees
  • Planning and leading a safety meeting
  • Participating in incident investigations and facility walk-through
  • Engaging in conversations with supervisors and managers to share improvement ideas

Supervisors and Managers:

  • Must demonstrate their commitment to safety by always following company safety rules
  • Take personal action to correct unsafe situations and follow up to let employees know the outcomes
  • Take time to walk around and talk to employees about your personal concern for safety, and then listen to their concerns
  • Review reports of near misses and injuries and follow up on the reports to ensure that appropriate actions are taken to eliminate the causes of incidents
  • Ensure follow up is a positive action rather than a punitive one
  • Integrate safety into all aspects of management planning:
    • Communicate safety performance expectations and objectives to supervision and employees
    • Include safety goals and objectives during organizational planning
    • Ensure the budget includes appropriate items for safety improvement
    • Review progress and follow up on areas for improvement
  • Enable employees to get involved in the safety process?
    • Encourage employee participation by allowing time for appropriate activities
    • Ask employees with specific skills or interests to participate in safety improvement projects
    • Recognize employee involvement and efforts
    • Create opportunities for employees to contribute ideas for safety improvement

This information is intended as a guideline to be used in conjunction with other risk control resources. It does not represent legal advice and does not amend the terms, conditions or coverage of your insurance policy. This information has been obtained from resources believed to be reliable, but Westfield Insurance cannot guarantee its reliability and does not assume liability for the information or suggestions presented.

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