Managing Safety Performance NewsFlash

Beware Complacency

Complacency is a state of mind characterized by an absence of fear.  If there really were nothing to fear, there’s nothing to hurt you. When there is something that can hurt you and you’re not fearful, beware: being fearful makes you careful.

Being complacent about a hazard is often confused with being unaware of a hazard.  “I did not know there was a hazard” is one problem; “I was sure that hazard wasn’t going to hurt me” is an entirely different problem.  Thinking “It’s never going to happen to me” often causes behavior that can make an injury more likely to happen.

That’s the big problem with complacency!

How do you recognize when you’re getting complacent? How do you recognize when somebody else is getting complacent?

Remember, complacency is a state of mind, meaning it’s not easy to detect.

It’s not that hard to come up with a list of factors that might suggest the potential for complacency. One obvious example: a long string of success such as a year’s worth of injury free days. “We’ve been safe all last year, so we’ll be safe today.” Beware!

Here’s one factor to add to your list that isn’t so obvious. It’s the matter of control: who actually has control over the hazard. Putting the hazard in our hands – rather than somebody else – makes it more likely for us to become complacent.

Electricity is a perfect illustration. Everybody’s afraid of lightning. But put the electricity in our hands and we aren’t nearly so fearful.

Paul Balmert

January 2021

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