“I don’t know how it happened. I guess I just got complacent and before I knew it I was in trouble”.
When you ask someone who experienced a close call you tend to hear some version of the word “complacency” as an explanation for their action. Likewise, frustrated managers who have to investigate incidents scratch their head when they suspect “human error” as the cause of the event and then blame the worker for being complacent.
Go and look at your incident investigation forms. Taken as a whole it seems like complacency is pervasive – the #1 cause of injury.
This is because we simplify and say that our workers have become complacent in their tasks. The problem is that we really don’t know what “complacency” is or what to do about it.
Unfortunately, just labeling someone as “complacent” does not lead us to a solution that reduces the risks. Often the complacent individual is told to “pay more attention.” But we are exhorting them to go against human nature…to stop being an animal. And they can’t.
Complacency shouldn’t be an exit strategy… the end of your analysis.
So lets consider another approach to complacency from a behavioral science perspective.