Forget about ghosts, witches or zombies. There are some real life vampires that can hide in a company’s closet, and slowly suck the life out of a safety culture. Keep your eye out for these scary safety ghouls and goblins.

1. Systematic Desensitization

This can occur when people hear a message over and over again…and over time they become immune to the message.

Similarly, if people are constantly exposed to a dangerous activity, they become less vigilant and begin to ignore the danger.

2. Normalization of Deviance

This is a long-term phenomenon in which workers repeatedly get away with a deviation from established procedures. The deviant behavior becomes normalized, and no longer seems unsafe.

Basically, workers do things without getting hurt, so they keep doing it.

The more times they get away with it… the more they believe they can’t get hurt. This creates a false sense of security and confidence.

3. Inattentional Blindness

This is the failure to notice a fully-visible, but unexpected object, because attention was engaged on another task, event, or object.

People tend to see only what they’re looking for.

When workers are focused on one thing, like getting a job done quickly, they may pay little attention to hazards that may be around them.

Expecting what is supposed to happen can result in missing the unexpected, or unusual, that is right in front of our face.

4. Optimism Bias

Some may refer to this as looking through rose-colored glasses.

Humans tend to overestimate the likelihood of positive events and underestimate the likelihood of negative events.

People believe that they themselves, are less likely to experience a negative event.

It is an attitude of “accidents happen to other people, but won’t happen to me.”

5. Obliviousness

Some workers are simply unaware of the risks associated with the work they perform. They blindly perform safety sensitive tasks, and either unknowingly avert an incident, or actually suffer the consequences.

This can often affect newly hired employees, workers in a new industry, those whose role has changed, those using new equipment, or the under-supervised.

Avoiding The Monsters

These concepts are all natural human tendencies, however it is important to stay vigilant and avoid complacent habits in the workplace. The best approach to avoid complacency is a deliberate and ongoing effort. Here are a 10 strategies to consider…

  1. Perform a risk assessment before any job task
  2. Leaders must communicate and correct
  3. Ask questions
  4. Follow polices and procedures
  5. Ensure training is complete
  6. Never assume
  7. Know what is going on around you
  8. Be aware of potential risk
  9. Wear the appropriate PPE
  10. Never hesitate to stop the job

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