Individuals working in industries such as healthcare, mining, construction, and manufacturing already understand the importance of safety. However, having a sense of awareness about safety, or even being willing to attend safety training, doesn’t necessarily mean that all individuals are fully committed to uncompromising safety in the workplace. Safety complacency—a sense that safety risks can be taken or that certain unsafe behaviors are acceptable—can not only make the workplace less safe, but it can also dilute the effectiveness of safety training if there is not a true mindset of change among all individuals.
The National Safety Council describes complacency as an issue that can affect any workplace: “Other business priorities can distract managers and employees from their safety mission. This distraction causes employees to stop paying attention to their surroundings, resulting in increased risk to the organization.” Complacency needs to be eliminated to open the door to building or improving a culture of safety. Here are four ways to get the most out of safety training and eliminate complacency.
Change Attitudes About Safety
One of the reasons that complacency takes hold is that individuals can fall into the trap of thinking that if certain illnesses or injuries haven’t happened before, they won’t happen in the future. Safety training can combat this thinking by doing more than teaching safety skills or providing information about safety regulations; it does so by also changing individual attitudes about safety. When safety training helps individuals to see why they should change their mindset, those individuals develop conviction and a desire to replace their complacency with a passion for safety. Moreover, once individuals understand why it’s necessary to change their attitudes about safety, they’ll be more likely to take personal responsibility for the safety of others and themselves.
Make It Hands-On
For many employees, especially those operating heavy machinery, handling hazardous materials, or working directly with patients, safety is as much about mindset as it is about individual actions and behaviors. Likewise, safety training is more effective when it gets people thinking and acting in scenarios that reflect the realities of the workplace. When individuals have opportunities to engage in interactive activities that teach new ways to approach safety, everyone has a chance to learn from shared experiences, challenge each other, and generate new ideas for how to behave differently. Safety training that incorporates experiential learning is a great way to engage employees and provide hands-on, interactive learning activities that change individual mindset and safety behaviors.
Actively Involve Leaders in Training
Safety training is just as important for leaders as it is for employees on the front lines. To eliminate complacency, leaders must not only be enthusiastic spokespeople for safety, but they must also behave as genuine role models and be willing to go on a journey to create a safer workplace alongside the people they lead. Safety training can help build safety leadership by teaching key skills such as:
- How to effectively communicate the safety strategy to others
- How to build commitment and accountability for safety within their team
- How to coach employees to course-correct and improve their commitment to the organization's goals for a culture of safety
Have a Strategy for Reinforcement in Place
Complacency can set in if safety training is a one-off event that isn’t revisited or reinforced thereafter. Without reinforcement, employees are more likely to revert to old behaviors and view training as a check-the-box exercise. Whether in the form of quizzes, digital reinforcement, or follow-up training exercises, reinforcement helps drive home the company’s commitment to its safety culture and ensures that what was covered in training stays top of mind for all individuals.
It is possible to drive out complacency and ensure a workforce that is passionate about—and fully committed to—creating a culture of safety. With training that encourages individuals and leaders to develop a new mindset and new safety behaviors, everyone is better prepared to put their commitment to safety into action.