Complacency – A Natural Human Tendency?

STOP Cutting Corners

STOP Cutting Corners! defines com·pla·cen·cy [kuhm-pley-suhn-see]
as a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation or condition.

With the Canadian federal election around the corner it has been mentioned numerous times that Canadians show complacency by not getting out to vote. In the midst of hockey play-offs some might argue that as the top team in the league the Canucks got too complacent with the Blackhawks and nearly lost out in the first round of the NHL play-offs. Some people failed to prepare for the spring flooding. Some people fail to shoulder check while driving. People cut corners. It appears complacency is all around us.

I recently completed my Level I and Level II training from Occupational Health & Safety. I found it interesting how many times in the span of four days I heard the word complacency. Why is complacency such a big issue with respect to safety? It’s because we lose that initial respect we had for the task that we are carrying out; we lose respect or recognition of a danger involved within that task. We’ve become totally at ease with the tool or procedure that we are utilizing.

You may think that as we gain “experience” we should lose this type of fear for something we face routinely. I would suggest it shouldn’t be so much the loss of the fear, but the change of fear into respect. The loss of respect or smugness is where the real danger lies and indicates the negative connotation of complacency.

Complacency is often the reason an experienced person, who has completed a task repeatedly, can find themselves with a serious injury.

Complacency is far from being a new nemesis, in fact an ancient Proverb states “The complacency of fools will destroy them.”

So what can be done to combat complacency? At many worksites employees are responsible to evaluate their tasks on a daily basis which is a good opportunity to evaluate the hazards as well. What tasks will you carry out today and which hazards should you be addressing? This isn’t just a daily task, but needs to be done minute by minute to keep yourself in the moment. Work procedures also help to identify the safe way to conduct a task and are a safe habit that we should form.

Self-defense instructor Randy LaHaie suggests the antidote to complacency is the deliberate effort to apply safety habits in the absence of perceived danger. LaHaie even goes as far as calling complacency the enemy of personal safety.

One of the funniest videos I’ve seen for a while has Emerson, a baby, who is laughing uncontrollably whenever his mother blows her nose. Emerson’s first reaction was fear and he does a fabulous job of expressing that fear until the laughter takes over. As Emerson is exposed to more “nose blowing” he will eventually lose his fear and become complacent once he realizes there is no actual danger. Its human nature to get complacent, but being aware of this tendency and correcting it with safe habits will help you avoid being a victim.

For a good chuckle check out Emerson’s video …

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