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We probably all identify with the state of being ‘on autopilot’ – often accompanied by the realisation that you’ve just driven in the opposite direction to the one you intended today. Why? Simply because that’s the route you usually take! Along with worker complacency – a by-product of habit – this tendency has been identified as a significant cause of workplace injury.

Complacency

Repeated actions taken over time without consequence embed the idea that those actions are safe, even if they are inherently not. According to ProAct Safety CEO Shawn Galloway, in an article that appeared on safetyandhealthmagazine.com this week, “We define success as not getting hurt, so (in the worker’s mind) ‘anything that I do that doesn’t get me hurt must be safe.’” Since 5% of accidents are caused by unsafe behaviour rather than hazardous conditions (RoSPA), complacent behaviour is a HUGE problem.

Autopilot

Running on autopilot in a hazardous environment will also take its toll on worker safety. It occurs when a worker does a job or performs a task automatically while not really thinking about how they are doing it, or whether it should be approached differently. Often this will be because they have never understood the risks associated with a particular task.

Even in an environment with a good safety culture and excellent leadership, it is ultimately up to the worker to undertake their duties in a safe manner. But how do you avoid complacency and the predisposition to autopilot? If workers can be educated and empowered to repeatedly assess their own practices and identify risky areas – this will help them to avoid critical errors. Leaders are then dealing with reinforcement not remediation.

One way to help is to give workers tools to put them in charge of their own safety, by driving awareness which leads to behavioural change. Technology can play an important part here. Sensor devices measure when a worker is at risk of injuring themselves through poor posture for example, and prompt them to do something about it. A worker in danger of hearing loss through failure to use PPE properly could be alerted to dangerous noise levels via a noise dosimeter with management scrutinising data collected to build a picture of what is happening and who is putting themselves at risk. By approaching the problem in two ways – at worker awareness level and through data interrogation, real change is effected in terms of workforce safety.

Find out how technology partners with good practice to bring about safety improvements in your business here. www.eleksen.com.