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A google search on the word “complacency” results in the following definition: a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition.

We all get complacent in our lives at times. For example: when was the last time you pulled in your driveway coming home from work and couldn’t remember anything about your drive home?

Let’s face it: going to the same places, doing the same thing every day can get repetitive. We go through the motions and are on autopilot.

Complacency also happens after success or achievement of a milestone. It’s why it’s unusual for a sports team to win a major event repeatedly. It almost seems contradictory that success can actually bring about such contentment.

Safety Complacency at Work

While complacency can have impact on our lives by preventing us from living up to our potential at times, the greatest impact of complacency takes place at work when it comes to safety.

When doing work, we tend to take shortcuts over time. We think nothing will happen to us. We have a false sense of security.

Yet, accidents can happen…and they do, every day.

Safety’s Worst Enemy?

According to OSHA, as of 2016, 13 deaths occur on the job each day in the US. That number increased 7% over 2015. You may be shocked by how high that number is, but it’s true.

At the same time, many organizations are making changes to encourage fitness or nutrition. The goal may be to lower insurance costs, but in so many cases, these businesses have taken a step backwards when it comes to the real health of the workplace–specifically, injury and illness prevention.

What are some signs your company could be (unintentionally) supporting behaviors that put employees at greater risk?

  • Employees are often hurrying through tasks. Are employees pressured to increase productivity or meet deadlines–so much so that people are feeling more and more pressure to finish a task or meet a quota?
  • A great deal of stress. Whether that’s stress in the workplace from not having the right tools and resources to do their job well or feeling valued or stress from their personal life, stress can create an environment that is more prone to accidents and injuries. Are you aware of how much stress employees are really under?
  • Fatigued workers cannot perform at the same level, not only in regard to productivity and quality, but also in safety.
  • Peer pressure and lack of openness. Sometimes the issue is that employees see something that they know can result in an accident, but they are afraid to say something. What are the consequences for an employee who speaks up in your company? What’s even worse is when a co-worker puts another person in a situation they know is unsafe, but they don’t feel they can speak up to make a difference.

These are all factors that, luckily, can be changed over time. Generally the core of the issue is complacency—feeling secure or unaware that something negative or outside the norm can happen.

How Managers Can Combat Safety Complacency on the Job

So, how do we combat complacency so workers stay safe?

1. Challenge the status quo.

Consistently ask why something is being done a certain way. Ask yourself and your co-workers if there is a better way. Don’t settle for “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Go for optimizing how things are done. (Make sure that workers, no matter their position, feel that they can challenge the status quo, too, in the interest of safety.)

2. Show that accountability matters.

No one really likes accountability when they think of it in negative terms. But change how you think about accountability–it can be empowering and it could be used to support the right behaviors you want to see. If you take accountability for something you “own” it – in good and bad. Most of your employees really do want to be responsible for something. It helps build a sense of purpose, confidence, and esteem.

3. Develop a culture of discipline.

Successful people, teams, and organizations have a disciplined process that they follow consistently. If your process doesn’t allow employees to achieve success, then adapt the process, but then follow it consistently. This gives you a recipe for sustainable success.

4. Allow time for everyone to re-charge.

All workers, including you, need a break. Giving them time to clear their mind, rest their body, and participate in other activities and enjoy the individuals around you is critical. As a manager, you have to work against any potential feelings of guilt or projecting that guilt on employees when you or they take time to re-charge.

5. Change your routine.

Following the routine, day after day, is a big part of what causes complacency. A routine causes boredom. Model the way when it comes to setting aside a few minutes each day to exercise your brain in a different way. Talk to a colleague about their job, walk a different path from your car to your workplace or even change the order of activities you do to get ready for work. Encourage and then do what it takes to track these behaviors in your employees.

Reduce Your Workplace Accidents

Accidents and injuries can happen. As a manager, you’re in a unique position where you’re able to take proactive steps that can reduce the likelihood of these injuries and illnesses. In fact, you’re in a position where you can save your own life…or a colleague’s life.

When a company reaches a best-in-class safety level, it not only protects the livelihood of employees and their families, but it shows up in employee engagement, productivity, and financial results. It also is demonstrated in the relationships that develop among employees when co-workers watch out for one another.

Avoid Complacency in the Workplace to Manage Risk

iReport is the easiest, most affordable way to have a world-class, collaborative safety program. With iReportSource, you can more precisely spot and predict high risk situations to drive a more engaged workforce. Move from fault-finding to fact-finding to improve performance, culture and your bottom line: learn more today.

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