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Complacency in the Outdoor Workplace

Anyone who has been involved in a large seismic project will tell you that it can be a long arduous process at times. Long days and extended shifts can wear down everyone from managers to line workers. As the days on the calendar pass by and the dreaded “groundhog day” feeling begins to set in, it is important to recognize the potential hazard of workplace complacency.

A large and involved 3D seismic project Typical  can last a year or more,so it is easy to see where one might fall victim to the dangers associated with becoming complacent. It is one of the root causes of worksite accidents and must be recognized and managed properly to ensure it doesn't affect safety or production.

Complacency is defined as “marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies”. What that means is that a person is content with the current situation and has in effect turned his brain off as to not recognizing hazards anymore. This attitude is highly dangerous at any worksite but we will focus on the outdoor workplace in this blog.

Working in the outdoors requires a high degree of awareness of one's surroundings. From a micro scale like the individual bolt or geophone a person is installing to the meso scale like the overhead hazards and weather. Hazards can also be described in the temporal (time) scale as in amount of daylight left in the day or approaching future weather. The need to remain vigilant and attentive is paramount to managing hazards in the outdoor environment.

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It is important for everyone from managers to frontline staff to recognize complacency in our coworkers and ourselves. Identification is always the first step in managing a worksite hazard, and one of the easiest things to recognize is a change in attitude. A person who is appears disengaged and displays inattentiveness likely doesn’t have their “head is not in the game”. People tend to take shortcuts and don't see the big picture when they are not engaged in a project. Not having initiative or being able (or willing) to problem solve effectively can also be a sign of complacency. It all can be summed up with “mind not on task”.

Preventative and corrective actions to help mitigate or solve worksite complacency are very important. One solution is keeping work shifts a reasonable length. Most operations have a limit as to how long a worker may be on shift for, but it is always important for managers to recognize when it is time for someone to take a break and go on time off. Making workers aware of the big picture and long term goals helps them understand their role and expectations. Challenging workers with new tasks can help peak interest. Allowing people to express ideas and opinions will increase their sense of involvement in the project. Developing a mentor or coaching program can allow workers with more experience to help new people learn skills and keeps long term employees engaged. Celebrating and recognizing even small successes will give people a sense of accomplishment after working on a task.

Lastly, fostering a culture of accountability to supervisors, coworkers and self is always an important factor. By taking responsibility for one's actions it creates focus and a yardstick to gauge how a person is doing at his job.

These are but a few ideas on how to beat complacency. Working in the outdoors requires attentiveness and effective decision making to remain safe and productive. Recognizing and dealing with complacency in the workplace is an important step to creating a safe work environment, but the real solution is to manage it before it happens

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