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Avoiding Corporate Complacency: Creating An Injury-free Workplace


Every day across the world workers lose their lives as a result of injuries or illnesses related to their work. 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 Organisation

A manager relaxing up in his office

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 and, over time, the entire organisation 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 organisational norm. Near misses go unreported, no one wants to take the time to fill out 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 organisation.

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 organisation's need to increase productivity, improve quality, and raise profits. They stop paying attention to the importance of safety in the workplace and become blinded to the fact that the lack of attention to safety performance is injuring the organisation in the long run. In other words, they become complacent.

When managers and supervisors do not make safety a top priority in the organisation, it is easy for employees to make their own 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 the meaningful safety activities.

Managers - Get Committed!

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 ideas:

Take time to walk around and talk to employees

Visit employees in their workplaces, whether on the shop floor, in the field or in the office. Talk about your personal views on workplace 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

When 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 company that could result in larger, bigger direct hits. Take care to ensure that your follow up is a positive action rather than a punitive one.

Integrate safety into all aspects of management planning

During the organisational planning process include safety goals and objectives. Ensure that the bedget includes appropriate items for safety improvement and communicate your company's safety performance expectations and goals to your employees. To encourage a sustainable change in the safety culture of your business, make it a point to review the overall progress at frequent intervals.

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, rather than expecting them to give up their leisure time. Ask employees with specific skills or interes to participate in safety improvement projects. Be sure to recognise their involvement and efforts in order to encourage them to continue contributing in the future, as inevitably conditions change such as new machinery or a change to the products being made, which could potentially introduce new hazards into the workplace.

Managers at all levels of the organisation can have a profound effect upon the safety culture of the business 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 energises an organisation's safety improvement efforts and the creation of a health and safety culture more than employees involvement.

Other Ways to Get Employees Involved in Your Organisation's Safety Planning and Process

First, make employees aware of how they can get involved in the safety process. Involvement can come in many forms. Encourage employees to get involved in the following activities and others:

  • Reporting all unsafe conditions
  • Attending safety meetings
  • Serving on employee safety committees
  • Planning and leading a safety meeting
  • Participating in incident and accident investigations and facility walk-throughs
  • 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 safety improvement.

Stamp Out Complacency to Create a Safety-Focused Organisation

To create a culture in your business where injuries are a significantly minimised, 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 business by believing that it's possible to have zero injuries in your organisation and communicating that belief to employees. Show employees the relevance of working safely to their jobs, careers, paychecks and, most importantly, their families. This will create an environment where everyone at every level in the organisation 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.

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