Health, Safety & Environment Consultants

The Dangers of Complacency


A cautionary tale from Jenny Sandford, Director and HSE Consultant at Sandford Hodges.

Last week I was forced to reflect on something that occurred at my home, which would never have occurred at work. Let me explain why.

Walking into the room, with the curtains drawn and lights off I walked straight into an open drawer. I knew this drawer wasn’t open when I left the room. I knew this as I had shut it myself, but due to the room being dark I couldn’t see the drawer was open. However, I also knew that the floor in this room sloped, and despite knowing the drawers often came open on their own, I had done nothing about it. Ignoring a hazard is something that I would never have done in the workplace. So why did I do it at home?

I’d like to say this was the end of the painful incident, but it wasn’t. I then went about my business for the next few hours. I didn’t check the injury to my leg, despite it being intensely painful. Instead, I chose to bury my head in the sand and try and ignore it. Ignorance is bliss, right? Wrong, as I was soon to find out. I soon realised I needed to get ready to go out. I decided to take a shower, still not inspecting my leg. As I stepped into the shower, the water hit my bruised, and as I soon discovered, cut, leg and this caused me to jump. I can testify that jumping in a shower is not advisable. I was soon slipping all over the shower, as I frantically tried to regain my balance. Luckily, I managed to grab the shower curtain rail, bending it but preventing me from falling and injuring myself further. However, this was pure luck. There was no judgement involved at all.

This got me thinking. This would never have happened if I had bothered to check my injuries after walking into the open drawer, and it the drawer hadn’t been open in the first place, and I had fixed the issue of the sloping chest of drawers, none of this would have happened at all. All of this was completely preventable, and I was left feeling like quite the fool. Especially as if this had been the workplace, I would not have walked into a room in the dark, and I would have done something about the drawers that kept sliding open when I first noticed the problem. To put it bluntly, I had become complacent.

Complacency doesn’t just happen at home. I often witness it in the workplace. People will walk passed a hazard day after day. I’ve witnessed it with torn or frayed flooring, trailing cables and even broken guarding to name but a few. When asked why an individual has walked by a hazard without doing anything about it, they often reply, “we know it’s like that so we are just careful”. Well, what if someone new comes on site, and does not know the hazard is there? What if you forget? What if you become distracted? The list of “what if’s” are endless.

So, what is the moral of this story? Firstly, own the hazard. If you see a hazard do something about it. Don’t just ignore it and hope the problem will go away or it will be ok. Take that information and feed it back into the risk assessment to ensure all hazards are captured and the risks adequately mitigated. Secondly, if you get an injury report is and check it out, no matter how silly you think it may be. Reporting of accidents helps us prevent reoccurrence and also allows us to check that the injury has been adequately treated. Finally, safety doesn’t stop when you leave the workplace. Take the same approached to risk assessment at home. We conduct mental risk assessments every day when we get in the car or cross the road. Use these same skills to assess the risks at work and in your home and ensure you mitigate the risk.


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