Complacency: Safety’s Worst Enemy

Complacency is perhaps one of the biggest problems we face in completing our daily tasks.  It is an attitude that determines how we respond to given situations.  In my safety career, I wish I would have kept track of how many times I have heard “we have always done it this way”.  Of course, it must be right if it has stood the test of time and repetitiveness.  Not necessarily true!  The very fact it is repeated often can draw us into the complacency trap where we learn to expect proven results until one day, the outcome changes for the worse.

I have often said that working safely is not easy, nor is it automatic. We have to work at it with the highest degree of awareness. If we just stop for a moment and think, we all can come up with instances that we did that made us become complacent. It happens to us because we perform many functions on an almost continuous basis. Many of our jobs are repetitive in nature, and the more we repeat what we are doing, the better the chance that we are becoming complacent without even realizing it. Therein lies the potential danger, the danger of complacency.


Are you guilty of complacency?  Sure you are, we all are.  Our challenge is to constantly fight it, and here are a few ways we can work on it:


  1. Keep The Goal In Mind and In Front

This can mean many things, such as “keep your eye on the ball”…  but regardless how it is stated, the basic idea is simple.  Always but the objections of your actions in full view and communicate the goal effectively.


  1. Think Several Steps Ahead

Think of this like you’re playing chess.  Your move now will affect how the game progresses in the future.  Complacency provides us security for the future but with little or logical foresight.  When we prepare for the steps ahead, we become more confident.


  1. Set Your Bar Higher

Every day, you want to move more dirt or lay more pipe than yesterday, correct?  When we try to out do ourselves, we compete with ourselves to become better.  Constantly setting the bar higher with production can prove to us that we can become better.  So why wouldn’t we do this with safety?  Just imagine how much we could accomplish when we take a more proactive step towards our own improvement in safety as we did with each production day?


Fighting complacency is a team effort.  Don’t allow it to set in when you aren’t looking.  Stay vigilant and ensure that those that work for you and with you are remaining vigilant with you as well.