Monday, October 28, 2013

Personal Risk Assessment – Complacency

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series on personal risk assessment. Read the series introduction here.

Repetitive tasks exist in most workplaces and wherever they’re present, so does a frustrating safety risk. It seems like the more we perform a particular task, the better we should be at it. I guess that is true for the first few times we do a task, but then our human minds have a tendency to wander. The safety principle of eyes on task and mind on task gets cloudy, and to some extent, we become complacent. Whether it’s the 50th or the 100th time, each of us has a different complacency threshold. We get sloppy, and the risk for personal injury increases and the probability for personal injury becomes even greater.

When experienced hands become complacent and unfocused, there is a tendency to pass this dangerous auto pilot mindset on to new hands, furthering the problem. One of the better safety pros I know suggests we use some simple but effective techniques to re-engage those doing repetitive jobs:

  • When engaged in a repetitious job, mentally and verbally treat it as if this were the first time performing the task. Verbally? Yes, audibly talking ourselves through the job helps our minds concentrate on the task afresh.

  • Have the new employee train or talk another employee through the job.

  • Stop and think: what could go wrong with this job, this time?

  • Stop and think: is the procedure for this job correct at this time under these conditions?
This kind of refocus technique is referred to as situational awareness –  being able to focus on the job every time as if it were your first time performing the task. Verbalize how to do the job and engage the brain before stepping into the field of fire. It is all a part of the culture of correct: training our minds, actions, and employees how to do every job perfectly, every time. In this case, the training is not the responsibility of a supervisor or upper management but rather the responsibility of the person doing the job, every time he/she does the job.

The Doc

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