Monday Morning Risk Perceptions
If your workplace was so dangerous you had to pass by concrete barriers, officers in Kevlar bulletproof vests with assault rifles, and reporters sticking microphones in your face to ask, "Are you afraid?" in order to reach your cubicle, would you still show up?
That was the issue facing thousands of workers in New York, Washington and Newark on Monday morning this week, after their offices had been pinpointed as possible terrorist targets. Most shrugged off the warnings and trudged off to wait in line to be searched and scanned.
In this issue of ISHNâ€™s e-newsletter, we look at four factors that diminished the sense of risk for these office workers â€” and how the same factors shape perceptions of risk in your workplace.
GET USED TO IT
"This is the world we live in," explained a worker for a brokerage firm to a reporter. "Weâ€™ve lived with this for so long," said a New York City councilman.
Psychologists call this dulling effect habituation. You can see it in your own workers after theyâ€™ve gotten into a routine. Clean out a septic tank or operate a punch press for the first time and youâ€™re on high alert. Later, your sense of an elevated threat wanes.
Being desensitized to risk is healthy to a degree. Otherwise, we might not get out of bed in the morning. Thousands of office workers might have pulled the covers up on Monday. But as a safety pro, you need to know when habituation turns dangerous, when your people are running on automatic pilot.
"It would look terrible if I wasn't at work," a Merrill Lynch manager told a reporter Monday morning in Manhattan.
This is typical peer pressure rearing its head. Risk communications expert Peter Sandman has a list of 16 reasons why employees sometimes ignore safety precautions; reason number 13: "My friends would laugh at me."
Again, you need to monitor when peer pressure crosses the line from motivating to dangerous. More than a few shortcuts have been taken in the name of "social conformity."
Some quotes in the papers this week from employees at targeted sites carried a macho tone (or maybe it was New Yorkers just being themselves) that belied another side of peer pressure â€” that desire to look cool under fire. "Iâ€™m not going to let some guy with a bomb-making degree from Kandahar University" change my day, one broker cracked.
Probably the most pronounced form of peer pressure was an almost unspoken sense that it was a matter of patriotic duty to show up for work Monday morning. Whatâ€™s called "top down" pressure was also evident.
"The terrorists want to scare us," said New York Senator Charles Schumer. "Itâ€™s almost a moral imperative for everybody to go about their jobs."
"Make no mistake, New York City is not going to be cowed by the terrorists," declared Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"You canâ€™t scare me" is reason number five on Sandmanâ€™s list for resisting precautions. Reason number 16: "Screw â€˜em all."
Like the other factors weâ€™re discussing, defiance is a double-edged sword. Directing it at an enemy is one thing, at the safety department is another. And you can take resistance too far and become foolhardy.
"I worked too hard to get where I am" to stay away now, said a trader on the New York Stock Exchange.
"I didnâ€™t sleep last night because I was thinking about coming in here," said a woman entering the Citigroup Center in New York.
Two different reasons for ignoring a risk: "Iâ€™m terrified" (number six on Sandmanâ€™s list) and "I know I should but itâ€™s a pain" (number eight).
Sandman calls both of these forms of "motivated inattention." In an article he wrote in the July, 2004 issue of The Synergist, he explains: "Sometime when people arenâ€™t paying attention to risk itâ€™s not because theyâ€™re busy or daydreaming or worried about a different risk. Itâ€™s because they donâ€™t want to pay attention to that particular risk."
For the sleep-deprived woman, the risk is too painful to think about. For the stock trader, itâ€™s an inconvenience.
In many cases, employees are motivated to ignore risks because they sense a double message being sent about safety. Yes, thereâ€™s a safety mission statement in the lobby. But "my boss doesnâ€™t mean it about safety" (Sandmanâ€™s reason number 14.)
Productivity is what really counts. Also known as: "Management is sending a double message" (number 15).
Employee perception surveys, small group "sensing sessions," or just walking around and having conversations are ways of unlocking hidden reasons for taking risks that workers might be too embarrassed or intimidated to talk about openly.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
"This is the safest building in New York," said a lawyer heading into the 59-story Citigroup Center.
"If anything, this place is over-protected," said a computer analyst waiting to get into the New York Stock Exchange.
"Everyone is going to do their job the best they can to protect us," said a financial advisor.
These are comments of fully-informed employees who are knowledgeable about the risks they face. Risk communication experts applauded the specific details given by homeland security czar Tom Ridge last Sunday.
Studies show people are far more anxious when they are given sketchy or no information about what to pay attention to. Alerts that are rich in specifics give people hazard cues to focus on. They feel empowered, more in control.
"I definitely came walking down here with my eyes wide open," said an accountant at the World Bank building in Washington.
Thatâ€™s what you want â€” mindful employees on alert. But you must be discerning when educating and training employees about safety and health risks. Are workers over-confident about protections? Are they confused or frightened by too much information (just study your average MSDS for example)?
Public safety officials and executives at the organizations under terrorist surveillance won high marks for their open and honest communication with employees. But the employee perceptions of risk on display earlier this week were also lowered for reasons enumerated by Peter Sandman in a list of outrage factors posted on his Web site www.psandman.com:
To reporters, it might have seemed like business as usual last Monday. But if Aristotle was right, pubs along Wall Street did a brisk business after the closing bell. People can deal with rising tensions, the ancient philosopher suggested, if they can experience a sense of release when the moment passes.
Dave Johnson is the ISHN E-News editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (610) 666-0261; fax (610) 666-1906.
3E Company â€” Alleviating the Pain of HazMat Information & Compliance Management3E provides total HazMat information pain relief with a comprehensive set of outsourced hazmat solutions, including MSDS management, transportation, waste management, spill, poison and exposure, training, compliance reporting and professional services, which are all accessible via a unique 24-7-365 HazMat Mission Control Center.
Join us for a Free Educational Web Seminar hosted by 3E Company and JCAHO, "What Should You Expect from the New JCAHO Accreditation Process?"
Date: Thursday, 8/12/04
Time: 9:00 a.m. â€“ 10:00 a.m. Pacific
Location: Web Browser (Visual & Audio)
Cost: No cost
Click here http://220.127.116.11/cfmx/ec/register/reg.cfm?BID=1&RegID=E47A3709 to register or call 1-800-346-6737, or visit our Web site www.3ecompany.com/events/jcaho
50% OFF BEST SELLING OSHA SAFETY VIDEOS PLUS receive FREE Fire Emergency Materials with purchase or preview of any best seller.Save on over 40 videos at www.trainingnetwork.com. Best Selling compliance training topics include Bloodborne Pathogens, HazCom, Confined Space, Fall Protection, HAZWOPER, Lock-out/Tag-out, PPE, Safety Orientation and Motivation. Plus: Asbestos, Driving, Electrical, Fire, Forklift, Lead, Lab, Scaffolding, Welding Safety and more. Act now on this special offer from The Training Network to subscribers of ISHN. Videos Now Only $74.98 to $97.98. (Regularly $149.95-$195.95) Enter Promotion Code 4979 to select videos to order or preview for 3-weeks. Offer expires 8/31/04.
Special Opsâ„¢ Series respiratorsThe Special Opsâ„¢ Series respirators from Moldex were designed to meet the toughest working conditions on the planet. The solid black color stays cleaner looking longer preventing pre-mature disposal of the masks before the filters are used up. And our Dura-MeshÂ® shell resists collapsing in heat and humidity. The HandyStrapÂ® allows the mask to hang around the neck when not in use so itâ€™s always ready when you are.
For added comfort the respirators include a soft foam nose flange, contoured nose bridge, VentexÂ® valve and SoftspunÂ® lining. NIOSH certified to have a filter efficiency of 95% or greater against particulates free of oil. Available without valve (M2600N95), with valve (M2700N95) and with added carbon layer for nuisance levels of organic vapor odors (M2800N95).
For samples of our Special Ops Series or for more information on our entire line of respiratory protection, phone: 800-421-0668, Email: email@example.com Web site: www.moldex.com.
EH&S jobsNexsteps.org is the new EH&S jobs Web site from ASSE, and features up to the minute Safety and Health listings from dozens of recruiters and job search specialists.
Jot down the Web address for yourself, or pass it on to a friend who might be job hunting â€” www.nexsteps.org
Visit Nexsteps today for the best in EH&S job listings from the nation's premiere safety and health organization.
9th Annual Behavioral Safety NOW conferenceThe premier Behavioral Based Safety Event of 2004 will take place in Reno, NV on October 19th through October 21st. You will not want to miss your opportunity to take advantage of the 9th Annual Behavioral Safety NOW conference. Register before August 13, 2004 for the early registration discounted rate.
Some of our featured speakers are: Aubrey Daniels - Aubrey Daniels International, Scott Geller - Safety Performance Solutions, Don Little - Liberty Mutual, Rixio Medina - U.S. Chemical Safety Board, Terry McSween - Quality Safety Edge, Jim Spigener - Behavioral Science Technology, just to name a few.
The two-day conference includes keynote presentations, break-out sessions and many case studies relating to Behavioral Based Safety. We also offer a selection of pre-conference workshops.
We are very excited about the quality of our 2004 conference and we hope to see you there! Check out the Behavioral Safety NOW web site for all of the conference details and to register at www.behavioralsafetynow.com.
See you in Reno!!
The Safety CoachÂ® Saysâ€¦ You Can Champion Change!Overview: Very few people understand how individuals and groups come to accept and embrace cultural change in safety. Each of us works through various cycles of change ultimately committing to what is necessary if the change is handled appropriately.
This book will not only help you to understand the four cycles of change but will allow you to engage champions for change who will want to make the evolution toward safety excellence a reality in your organization. This book will make any reader believe that positive change is possible. It also highlights the eight most critical components of safety culture change.
The Safety CoachÂ® Says â€¦ is in story form â€” and its four main characters will engage and entertain you, as well as your future champions of change. Forward by Dave Johnson, Editor, Industrial Safety & Hygiene News. Item #SC008-BK
Orders can be made by visiting: www.davidsarkus.com/estore_book.html.
Single book orders are $19.95 + $5.00 for shipping and handling. For bulk orders please phone: 1-800-240-4601
Books from ASSEYou can order these titles and more from the American Society of Safety Engineers Bookstore on ISHN's Web site. Visit â€” http://www.ishn.com/FILES/HTML/ISHN_ASSE_index/
Among the books you'll find:
- "Refresher Guide for the Safety Fundamentals Exam"
- "The Participation Factor," by Dr. E. Scott Geller
- "Safety Training That Delivers"
- "Building a Better Safety and Health Committee"
- "Safety Management - A Human Approach," and "Techniques of Safety Management - A Systems Approach," both by Dan Petersen.
MARKET RESEARCHISHN offers exclusive market research survey reports including White Papers, Online Training Editorial Study, Web-based Training Study, Salary Study, Hygiene Instrument Study, PPE Study, and more... CLICK HERE http://www.ishn.com/FILES/HTML/ISHN_market_research_index/0,5680,,00.html to learn more about these studies.
DIRECT MAILLook to ISHN's 73,000+ subscribers for your next direct mail campaign. For customized lists, call toll free: 1-800 323-4958; Fax: 1-630-288-8390; E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: www.dm2lists.com
WE NEED YOU!Are you a safety and health pro or a manufacturer or provider of occupational safety and health products or services who enjoys writing?
Shakespeare need not apply, but ISHN is looking for authors to publish short articles (1,000 words) in our monthly issues.
Topics include: safety success stories, close calls and personal experiences, training tips, use of software, engineering controls (machine guards, lockout-tagout), gas detection and air monitoring, confined space safety, personal protective equipment, and OSHA compliance issues.
If any of these topics interest you â€” or if you have other ideas â€” e-mail editor Dave Johnson at email@example.com
We will also consider articles youâ€™ve already written but not submitted to any safety magazine.