The Complacency Dilemma
Complacency is often listed as a contributory cause on many accident investigation reports: Many industries recognize complacency as a factor in accidents and near misses, leading to its frequent listing as a contributory cause in reports. However, complacency is only one aspect of human behavior and may not be the only influence on safety choices and behaviors.
Perception surveys ask about complacency in repetitious jobs: Surveys are being conducted to gauge workers' views on complacency, especially in repetitive jobs where it may be considered an undesirable characteristic of a safety culture. However, standard solutions for addressing complacency often need to be more effective.
Complacency is a state of mind: Complacency is a mental state that is not the sole determining factor in making safe choices or actions. Habitual behaviors, such as automatically wearing seatbelts, may occur regardless of complacency or distractions.
Root-cause analysis needs to be revised in addressing human behavior: Root-cause analysis is often geared towards machines and circuits, not human behavior. As a result, it contributes to the complacency dilemma and may not accurately or effectively prevent future accidents.
Human behavior is complex: Human behavior is more complex than the root-cause methodology describes and may not always be accurately represented by the simple labeling of "complacency."
Five-cause chain is erroneous: The idea that five is the magic number down a causal chain has been disproven and may not accurately represent the root cause of accidents. A more appropriate question is what precautions workers often fail to take when complacent.
Behavioral Pareto analysis: Conducting a behavioral Pareto analysis of accidents and near misses can reveal the behaviors that could have prevented or lessened the severity of the accident, allowing for targeted reinforcement of habits.
Habitual behaviors can prevent most accidents: If simple, repetitive habits can prevent the majority of accidents, then forming habits can solve the safety problem. For example, seatbelt use became a habit through awareness, punishment, and reminders until it was automatically performed.
Not all complacency can be addressed by forming habits: While some simple, repetitive patterns can prevent accidents, specific tasks may require significant planning and conscious thought and cannot be addressed through habit formation.
Nuclear power plants as a model: Some organizations have looked to the strict procedures and reduced decision-making in nuclear power plants as a model for improving safety, but this approach may not be feasible for more labor-intensive organizations.
Rigid guidelines may not control worker decisions: In organizations where workers frequently make decisions, worker competence and judgment become more critical than written procedures, and the formation of safe work habits can impact these decisions.
Safety solutions can be divided into conditional and behavioral: Safety solutions can be separated into those addressing conditions and those managing behaviors. Root-cause analysis is valuable for addressing the former, but human behavior is more complex and may require either better habits or better thinking.
Simple, repetitive behaviors vs. complex, cognitive behaviors: Safe behaviors can be divided into simple, repetitive behaviors and complex, cognitive behaviors. Simple behaviors can be addressed through habit formation, while complex behaviors may require a different approach.
Importance of worker competence and judgment: In situations where workers frequently make decisions, worker competence and judgment become critical, and safe work habits can impact overall safety performance.
Common practice impacts worker safety habits: Common practice in the workplace is affected by worker safety habits, highlighting the importance of forming positive habits for overall safety improvement.