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Workplace Complacency Increases the Risk of a Work Injury

A Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Pennsylvania Discusses the Findings of a New Study

worker injury hardhat warehouse

More and more workplaces are recognizing the danger to employee safety posed by complacency.

In this context, complacency refers to how the mind can wander or disengage from repetitive work. Safety procedures are often repetitive, which means there is the potential for employees to enter a state of decreased awareness, or “autopilot,” and gloss over important steps.

When this happens, it puts the entire workplace at risk for injury, illness, or, in some cases, death. Some of the most common work injuries and illnesses include bone fractures, sprains, burns, skin disorders, respiratory conditions, spinal cord injuries, back pain, poisoning, and hearing loss.

How safety complacency causes problems

It’s not clear how many work injuries can be attributed to complacency, but work safety service provider Safe Start notes that about 95 percent of Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) serious violations are for actions that were not committed willfully.

In Pennsylvania, there were 137,300 recordable work injuries in 2020. More than half of these injuries required an employee to take days from work to heal, have work restrictions, or transfer. The industries and workplaces with the most reported injuries include:

  • Manufacturing (textile mills and food processors reported the most injuries and illnesses)
  • Health care
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing and residential care facilities
  • Transportation (couriers and messengers reported the most injuries and illnesses)
  • Utilities
  • Warehouses

Nursing and residential care facilities have the highest worker injury rate, according to state data, with 9 serious injuries per 100 full-time workers.

Overcoming work complacency

Strategies are being developed to combat complacency. One of the more effective tactics is to use smart, well-timed questions to re-engage workers in safety measures.

Not just any questions will do, however. They must be the right questions at the right time. Researchers at Habit Mastery Consulting identified five types of questions that can help.

  • Planning – Creating pre-job planning checklists is a great way to introduce questions and make them an active part of tasks. It could include things like a list of tools needed for the job and follow-up questions on necessary safety protocol.
  • Perceiving – This type of question asks workers to be aware of the environment and potential hazards. Assess the work area using a variety of senses – hearing, seeing, smell, touch. Also, consider things like staffing and equipment condition. Then compare what you notice to your experience with the task. Is anything different? Will new circumstances affect worker safety?
  • Predicting – Once the workplace has been assessed, it is important for employees to predict the outcome of these differences. Think about the necessary steps to your goal while scanning for potential hazards.
  • Perspective changing – A fresh set of eyes can often notice risky opportunities a person familiar with a task no longer actively observes. Safety can improve when employees view work from various angles and offer their insight.
  • Prioritizing – Employees are often exposed to all types of information at work, but only some of it applies to them. This means that workers can get used to tuning out the noise – which also may include tuning out important information. Questions prioritizing tasks disrupt this pattern by setting clear expectations before work begins.

Our law firm can fight for the benefits you deserve

Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation program is supposed to help injured employees cover medical costs and provide partial lost wages. Benefits are intended for just about all seriously injured or ill employees, but companies and insurance providers frequently fight claims. Having an experienced attorney handle your claim means they can press for results and help you navigate the workers' comp process while you heal.

If you were injured, became ill, or lost a loved one at work, contact us today for a free case evaluation. Our workers’ compensation attorneys have decades of experience fighting for injured workers in Pennsylvania, and our dedicated legal team knows what it takes to get results.

Our law firm serves Lehigh Valley and the surrounding area from our offices in Allentown and Bethlehem. If you can’t come to us, we can go to you. Schedule your free case evaluation right now.

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