The C word: COMPLACENCY Part 1

There, I’ve said it; the C word, Complacency.

How’s your site’s safety record? Has it had over a hundred days without an LTI? Are the zeroes accumulating to unprecedented levels? If this is the case, you and the crews out there are to be congratulated, but the chances are your biggest danger is complacency. It’s time to move your crews from saying, “We haven’t had an incident, we’re doing so well” to “We haven’t had an incident, what are we overlooking and what more do we need to do”. One definition of complacency is self-satisfaction accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies. And the fact is, the more we do a job or task, the better the chance that we will become complacent without even realizing it. Repeated exposures to situations without consequence brings about complacency. Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, it breeds Complacencycomplacency.

The fact is most accidents are caused by unsafe acts, not unsafe conditions. Oftentimes these unsafe acts stem from complacency. This is because complacency causes us to not recognize changes and makes us overconfident. Complacent workers will then begin to take shortcuts and risks. Their attention begins to falter. They basically perform routine tasks on autopilot. If this is such a hazard what can we do about it. The fact is that all of us will let our minds wander from time to time and we can usually do it without suffering consequences. How many of us have got behind the wheel and not given our full attention to the road because of an interesting chat or preoccupation with what is coming up or what just happened. The other thing that makes complacency so hard to deal with is the fact that most often we don’t even realize we are falling victim to it. It’s pretty hard to deal with a hazard when we don’t even know it is there. In the next couple of issues we will be dealing with some of the ways we can combat complacency, but here are a couple of strategies to start you off. The good news is that one effective strategy is simply to make people aware of it. Putting the problem front and center can help workers to guard against it. Encourage them to think about what they are doing, what they are working with and what can go wrong.

Here’s an exercise you can try with the crews. Get each of them at some point during the next shift to watch one of their coworkers for a minute or so. Just watch how they do a task for a little while. The effect of this is that it will raise your own awareness as you see how he is doing the task. As you are watching others for risk patterns, it will make you conscious of your own work patterns. The other added benefit is that if you talk with your buddy afterwards he will also become aware of what he is doing. So many people do not even realize what they are doing. The objective of this is to get people to think about what they are doing.

Another strategy is to begin to develop safety habits. Choose to perform a safe procedure over and over again until it overrides any unsafe behavior.