Injury-Free Workplace: How To Avoid Corporate Complacency (the
By Deb Potter, PhD, CMC,
Every day in the United States
on average, 15 workers lose their lives as a result of injuries or
illnesses related to their work—that’s over 5700 people. These people
leave behind families, friends, and co-workers. The single most common
cause is complacency—an attitude that “it won’t happen to me.”
Complacency Kills The Entire
Too often, individuals and
companies become complacent when it comes to safety. Managers are
satisfied with mediocre safety performance and do not work to improve
the environment by raising safety awareness and eliminating the
potential for injury. Employees are content and are not attentive to
their work environments. They become convinced that management is not
concerned about safety. They begin to think they are not responsible for
their own safety. Over time, the entire organization gives little
meaningful attention to safety.
The result is that employees
begin to get in a hurry and take shortcuts on the job. They are more
focused on production and getting the job done than getting it done
safely. That attitude becomes an organizational norm. Near misses go
unreported. No one wants to take the time to fill our forms and
employees don’t understand the connection between sharing information
and eliminating injuries. Managers do not pay attention to reports, so
they become unimportant. The number of injuries increases and they
become more severe. Everyone becomes frustrated. Employees blame
management and management blames employees, yet no one is willing to
take action to improve the situation. Unfortunately, it often takes a
fatal injury to cause everyone to focus on safety. Don’t let this happen
to your organization.
The Complacency Trap—Don’t
Become Distracted By Pressing Issues
Research shows that many
incidents occur because people are distracted and do not pay attention
to their environment and what is going on around them. Managers often
fall into the same trap—they become distracted by pressing issues such
as the organization’s need to increase productivity, improve quality,
and raise profits. They stop paying attention to the importance of
safety in the organization and become blinded to the fact that the lack
of attention to safety performance is injuring the organization in the
long run. In other words, they become complacent.
When managers and supervisors do
not make safety a top priority in the organization, it is easy for
employees to make personal safety a low priority. Then incidents and
injuries occur with increasing frequency. There are two things that must
happen to avoid this potentially deadly situation.
- Managers must renew their
commitment to the safety process
- Employees must get involved
in meaningful safety activities.
It takes more than just saying
you are committed to safety—you have to put actions behind your words.
Managers can demonstrate their commitment to safety in a number of ways.
First and foremost, managers must follow the company’s safety rules.
Then, regularly attend safety meetings. Also consider the following
- Take time to walk around
and talk to employees.
employees in their workplaces whether on the shop floor, in the field,
or in the office. Talk about your personal concern for safety, and then
listen to their concerns. Take personal action to correct unsafe
situations and follow up to let employees know the outcomes.
- Make it a point to
personally review all reports of near misses and injuries.
managers review reports of injuries and near misses, it demonstrates the
information’s importance. Follow up on the reports to ensure that
appropriate actions are taken to eliminate the causes of incidents in
your organization that could result in larger, bigger direct hits. Take
care to ensure that your follow up is a positive action rather than a
- Integrate safety into
all aspects of management planning.
the organizational planning process include safety goals and objectives
then ensure that the budget includes appropriate items for safety
improvement. Communicate your organization’s safety performance
expectations goals, objectives to the management level and to your
employees. To encourage a sustainable change in the safety culture of
your organization, make it a point to review your organization’s
- Enable employees to get
involved in the safety process.
Identify areas where employees can become actively involved in the
safety process and encourage their participation by allowing work time
for appropriate activities. Ask employees with specific skills or
interests to participate in safety improvement projects. Then recognize
their involvement and efforts.
Managers at all levels of the
organization can have a profound effect on the safety culture of an
organization by following these suggestions. Once they see their
supervisors and managers taking safety seriously, employees in turn will
be more committed than ever. And, nothing energizes an organization’s
safety improvement efforts more than employee involvement.
Other Ways To Get Employees
Involved In Your Organization’s Safety Planning and Process:
First, make employees aware of
how they can get involved in the safety process. Involvement can come in
many different forms. Encourage employees to get involved in the
following activities and others:
- Reporting all unsafe
- Attending safety meetings
- Serving on employee safety
- Planning and leading a
- Participating in incident
investigations and facility walkthroughs
- Engaging in conversations
with supervisors and managers to share improvement ideas
Employees whose ideas and
involvement are valued will increase safety performance faster than
employees who are just simply following the rules. Create opportunities
for employees to contribute ideas and information that will lead to
Stamp out Complacency to
Create a Safety-Focused Organization
To create a culture in your
organization where injuries are a thing of the past, remind everyone
that complacency is a dangerous thing—it’s a killer. Find ways to pique
employees’ interest in finding ways to make safety improvements. Create
motivation for positive change in the organization by believing that
it’s possible to have zero injuries in your organization and
communicating that belief to employees. Show employees the relevance of
working safe to their jobs, careers, paychecks, and, most importantly,
their families. This will create an environment where everyone at every
level in the organization will increase their commitment and their
involvement in making the workplace injury-free. The result is that
everyone can go home every day to their families without injury.
Deb and Carl
Potter help organizations target a zero-injury workplace, so everyone
can go home to their families every day injury free. As advocates of a
zero-injury workplace, they can help your organization raise its safety
performance and cut its worker compensation insurance expenses in half.
Get a copy of their latest book,
Zero! Responsible Safety, By Design