Do you find yourself distracted at work? Are you taking short-cuts that you wouldn’t normally take? Are you finding safety issues more and more during routine work tasks? If so, you may have succumbed to complacency. When safety issues start to arise at the individual or workplace level the focus may focus on issues other than the task at hand.
We are all complacent in our work to some degree, the consequences of that complacency vary depending on the level of risk of the task being undertaken. Many primary and cumulative factors can contribute to distraction:
routine work tasks and outcomes
assuming that we are doing things as safely as possible
self and team satisfaction
the ‘it won’t happen to me’ syndrome
In addition, the complacent behaviours of others can influence our own complacency and cause us to think – ‘if its OK for them to take shortcuts, its OK for me to do the same’.
As individual workers, managers and supervisors it is critical we recognise when complacency is creeping into our work practices and put in place measures to stop it. The insidious nature of complacency is its effect on our ability to recognise we are in danger and consequently not put in place appropriate control measures.
A common example of complacency in the workplace is observing a co-workers complacency and not addressing it. If an accident occurred that was caused by the co-workers complacency that caused harm to themselves or others, how would you live with that?
The Fire Service has a saying, ‘if we get away with it once…twice…three-times….it then becomes our SOP’. Every time you do a task, you assess the hazards and apply controls and perform the task without safety incident. The next time you do a task you are confronted with a nearly identical situation, but you forget to apply one of your controls. Based on the safe outcome previously you proceed with the task, again without incident. As the days/months/years go by you conduct the same task and have the same outcome without safety incident, even in the presence of more and more unsafe conditions. You are being lulled into a false sense of security. Year after year without an accident you push the envelope of safety further – until your complacent behaviour ultimately catches up with you and a critical incident occurs.