Imagine there is a crane operator who goes to climb a cab ladder, a task he’s done hundreds of times. But this time, he forgot to maintain three points of contact and slips on the second rung. The operator falls and breaks his leg, and now can’t work for eight weeks. Sound familiar?
Most injuries are rarely caused by the tasks typically associated with danger. In reality, most accidents are the result of common hazards workers face on a daily basis. Frequently, it boils down to what the injured party would call a thoughtless mistake, such as forgetting to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) or not following a procedure they’ve performed countless times.
Accidents happen when our perception of risk is lower than it should be. For example, even though there is a constant risk of tripping, it is not normal to focus on the dangers of walking, because we take thousands of incident-free steps each day. So, although these mistakes are usually the result of human error, it also means they are avoidable.
Jobsite Complacency: Safety’s Worst Enemy
Complete any task frequently enough and we become confident in our ability to complete it safely and can end up minimizing, if not completely eliminating, the risk in our minds. Whatever it is, from working with electricity to walking around the office, the more we do it, the more we start to view the task as less risky than it is, even though the hazard has not changed.
When workers, like the crane operator I initially mentioned, become desensitized to small risks they stop paying attention to them. Although the risks may seem small, the consequences for jobsite complacency aren’t.
Injuries can occur, not only from serious shortcuts or carelessness, but also from a lack of focus on small, real hazards. In the construction industry, our workers have to deal with many hazards on a daily basis. When contending with these regularly, workers are more likely to have a skewed perception of risk. For example, after driving or working around massive mobile equipment, driving your car can seem simple by comparison. These blind spots can develop into real hazards that put us or someone else at risk.
4 Tips to Combat Complacency
The common theme here is lack of attention and complacency, which open the door for thoughtless mistakes. So how do we help each other to combat jobsite complacency? Here are a few tips:
- Stay Informed. Continue to engage through training, meetings and brief safety conversations and reminders. Site conditions can vary from day to day, so always make sure to stay up to date on any potential hazards on site.
- Report hazards and near misses. Reporting allows project teams to collect information, correct current problems and prevent future incidents and injuries from happening. Collecting and sharing examples about our mistakes encourages others to do the same.
- Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you feel you do not have clear or sufficient instructions on how to do something safely.
- Lead by example. Many thoughtless mistakes result from bad habits, such as taking shortcuts, not wearing proper PPE or ignoring safety procedures. Modeling appropriate behavior and habits can go a long way in keeping yourself and others safe.
Remember, safety is never a waste of time. It’s a plan to protect our greatest resource, our people.