Complacency: The silent killer
Some of the sessions taking place this week have been dubbed “Super Sessions” due to their focus on key issues in the safety industry. One such Super Session Tuesday morning took place on the expo floor and spoke of the dangers of complacency.
Larry Wilson, a behavior-based safety consultant for over 25 years and the author of SafeStart, a safety awareness program, discussed how people get complacent in everyday tasks they have been doing for years such as driving, operating machinery and even recreational activities such as running or skiing.
“Complacency causes many problems, but the biggest or worst is that it leads to your mind not being on task,” Wilson said. He said your mind can wander while doing tasks you’ve done hundreds of times, however, it only takes a few seconds of closing your eyes at the wheel or thinking about something else for an dangerous accident to happen.
He said when complacency sets in, it does not allow for unexpected actions that can cause injury. Those unexpected sources of danger could be your own actions, i.e. falling asleep at the wheel, other people’s actions, such as someone else leaving a door open or failing to stop at a red light, or equipment malfunctions, such as something unexpected happening without you or someone else’s involvement (e.g. wire rope breaks, traffic lights start working incorrectly, coupling fails, hose bursts, etc.). All those unexpected actions could cause injury if someone is complacent, and most likely injury could be prevented if the person was on alert.
Another problem with complacency, he said, is overconfidence. He offered examples of an experienced worker thinking he doesn’t have to wear a fall arrest harness. Wilson said most everyone will get complacent over time with things they have done over and over again, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change your behavior. “It takes a bit of effort to develop new habits or to change old ones,” he said.