Workers’ Compensation Lawyer San Diego, CA

How To Avoid Safety Complacency in the Workplace

Employee helps fellow worker with bandaging his hand

Workers' Comp Attorneys in Southern California Highlight a Little-Known Risk

It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes repeating safety drills and procedures day in and day out can lead to worker injuries.

This is due to "complacency," a kind of auto-pilot state where an employee is so familiar with their work that they lose focus.

It's difficult to quantify the problem, but SafeStart estimates that 95 percent of serious Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) citations are issued for unintentional safety violations.

For the most part, safety advocates say, new experiences require more brainpower than well-known routines. With less attention required to perform repetitive work - including safety operations - room opens for error.

"The fact is that injuries, big or small, are difficult to prevent with compliance alone as they are largely the result of worker actions — usually fueled by complacency and other human factors like rushing, frustration, and fatigue — that lead to inattention and unintentional errors," the workplace safety service and publication noted in "Complacency Deserves a Place on OSHA's Top 10."

Work accidents in San Diego

Good habits are something most workplaces try to instill in their employees, and some have discovered methods for maintaining safety standards and keeping workers engaged. One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to do this is by creating an environment that welcomes questions.

When used correctly, questions can prevent serious workplace injuries and death. In California, there were more than 460 work fatalities in 2020. The most frequent cause of worker death was "transportation incident." Slips and falls, trips, violence, and exposure to harmful substances or environments were also leading factors in fatal work incidents.

The industries most likely to experience an employee death were natural resources, construction, maintenance, production, transportation, and repair services.

During the same year, there were more than 5 violations with initial fines of over $40,000 issued in San Diego. They were issued over failure to:

  • Provide fall protection or protection from falling objects
  • Prevent overexposure to airborne contaminants
  • Offer overall accident prevention
  • Prevent electrocution
  • Provide proper load-handling equipment
  • Ensure properly trained operators are driving industrial trucks
  • Properly elevate employees with a lift truck

Industries that were issued such violations include support services, cabinet makers, shipbuilding and repair, commercial machinery repair, zoos and gardens, and marine cargo handling.

Questions to combat complacency

There are five or so types of questions employees can be encouraged to ask that may help prevent complacency-related health risks.

According to work safety group EHS, these questions deal with issues of:

  • Planning - Before any task, even one done regularly, it is a good idea to plan. Pre-job checklists that include questions like "What tools are needed?" and "What types of protection do we need to safely use those tools?" should be a part of the planning process.
  • Perceiving - Give employees time to perceive, or "take in," the environment around them including things like sight, hearing, and smell. How do these perceptions compare to past work conditions? Do any of the things observed by employees signal potential hazards?
  • Predicting - Look at the job ahead and define the end goal. This invites workers to "play the movie" of the job forward or backward. Think about the individual steps in the job and what unexpected events may factor into execution.
  • Perspective changing - For this type of question, employees are asked to view the job through another workers' eyes or otherwise view a situation from a different angle. Sometimes employees new to a task can see potential issues that others comfortable with the routine do not.
  • Prioritizing - Asking questions about task priority removes second-guessing and disagreements about which tasks to complete first. By clearly identifying expectations and desired outcomes before a task begins, employees can work more efficiently.

There are at least several good times when employees can ask questions to improve safety. They are when a group or individual is:

  • Starting the day, task, or switching to a new task
  • Under pressure due to things like time, visibility, or interpersonal conflict
  • Engaging in repetitive tasks

Injured workers can seek workers' comp benefits in California

Whether it's due to complacency or another reason, when workers are injured on the job in California, they can file for workers' compensation benefits. The program is meant to provide injured employees with money to help cover related medical expenses and missed wages during recovery.

Although just about any serious workplace injury qualifies for the benefit, there is no guarantee that your claim will be accepted or funded to the full extent you need. This is why injured workers in the San Diego area and throughout Southern California turn to McLaughlin & Sanchez to handle the process for them. Our California workers' compensation attorneys have the knowledge, experience, and negotiating skills to fight for the benefits you need and deserve.

Contact us today for a free case evaluation. We have offices in San Diego, Chula Vista, and Temecula (by appointment only).

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