What is complacency?
Complacency is a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger or defect.
Risk: Damage to property or injuries to yourself, the public or the environment.
Complacency does not just lead to injuries. We can unknowingly create a hazard for others or cause damage to property. Around 30% of incidents recorded are caused by complacency (some people may call it carelessness)
There are many causes of complacency, which can be different for each person, as everyone has different goals, needs, and values. Therefore, training and safety programs must be adjusted for each person, so everyone’s needs are met.
The following are some top causes that may lead to complacency:
- Repetitive functions on a continual basis without incident;
- Focus on production and not safety (shortcuts, risky behaviours);
- Management does not expect high safety performance;
- The company does not review each accident/behaviour in the same manner. The changes usually occur after serious accidents/injuries.
- Employees are not corrected after unsafe behaviours; or
- Getting distracted.
An example of how complacency may occur:
John is at work doing his usual task (emptying bins). He has been doing this for years and feels he can do it with his eyes closed. There is a heap of small bits of paper right under the desk, so he bends down and grabs it by hand. Without thinking, he gets up and hits his head on the edge of the table, which causes him to cut the back of his head requiring stitches…
This is exactly what we are talking about, John felt secure in his job and continues on doing what he does without placing safety first, resulting in him getting up without looking or thinking.
You get so used to doing things the same way that you do not always look at the hazards in your surroundings. This can happen in anything we do at work or at home.
The “cure” for complacency cannot be easily summed up, but may be achieved through deliberate, continued effort in applying safety strategies and habits to what we do. We must remain focused on continued improvement and not rely on past successes.
How to fight complacency
One key to avoid complacency is to form “safety habits”. A habit is something you do repeatedly until it overrides your former behaviour and becomes automated. An example of good safety habits are wearing gloves, safety glasses, removing trip hazards, using correct colour coding, being aware of your surroundings, think before you do etc.
Pre-task risk assessments are also a good way of fostering this type of behaviour. This can be done by simply checking for hazards before, during and after the work has been done.
Your brain likes habits because they are efficient. When you automate common actions, you free up mental resources for other tasks. Therefore, it is definitely worthwhile creating these habits.
How to create a habit
Habits are a difficult thing to achieve if it is a good habit and equally difficult to quit if it is a bad habit. Even with the strongest will, one finds it extremely difficult to make a habit.
It can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit and an average of 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic. The time it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behaviour, the person, and the circumstances.
It sounds an easy task but one needs a strong will and determination to implement and follow safety habits. The following things may help to achieve that :
· Keep safety top of mind (Think before you act) – Switch on!
· Engage with each other
· Make a proper plan
· Find your motivation
· Be honest and consistent
· Enjoy the process not only the result
· Know your purpose and reasons
Remember your actions can affect not only your health but also the health of others around you. An injury not only affects the injured person but also may affect their whole family.