4 Ways to Stop Safety Complacency

The supervisor is the first line of defense when it comes to complacency.

You probably take great pride and talk proudly of your people, competent teams who do excellent work. But, from time to time little issues are starting to show up in the form of small mistakes, and memory and judgment lapses. That’s complacency-creep.

When crews get into a rhythm of working together, that rhythm can become a routine. And where there is routine, there is Auto-pilot. And it needs to be fixed. But by who? Well, it won't be by senior management.

You can't fix complacency from the top of the organization. You fix it where it's happening: at the front-line.  That’s where the complacency takes place. That’s where it gets fixed. That means supervisors.

But, how do you do it? Here are four ways you fix complacency:

1Get everyone on it. It's going to take the whole team to battle complacency. No one gets a free pass. That means everyone is on the lookout for the warning signs that could lead to an incident. Repetitive tasks, fatigue, rushing, are all connected to complacency.

2Communication. When it comes to complacency, the message must be “our greatest threat is ourselves.” Processes and procedures address the vast majority of physical threats. What is left to address is the mental threat. Remind your team that they are at mental risk. Gets conscious attention. Block them from going into auto-pilot.

3Supervisors must be plugged in. The supervisor is the first line of defense when it comes to complacency. They have got be able to tell when their people's minds are wandering. They need to be able to tell when their crew members are distracted. Supervisors need to get plugged and build a relationship where employees can voluntarily admit that they are having trouble keeping mind on task.

4Set achievable targets. Nothing is quite as motivating as success. When employees succeed, they want to do it again. It feels good to succeed. And attention is greater during moments of success than it is in moments of mundane tasks. Setting up achievable targets builds motivation to want to achieve more. You build momentum. And where there is momentum, there is attention.

the perfect safety meeting ebook To win the battle over complacency, you've got to engage your crews to look for the signs. Task your people with finding solutions to overcome complacency. Complacency creep is insidious. But if you’re looking for it, and your crews are looking for it, and you’re all working together to eliminate it, complacency doesn’t stand a chance.


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Kevin Burns is a management consultant, safety speaker and author of "PeopleWork: The Human Touch in Workplace Safety." He is an expert in how to engage people in safety and believes that the best place to work is always the safest place to work. Kevin helps organizations align their people, leadership. communication and safety in order to improve performance and culture.

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Topics: safety leadership, safety complacency