top of page
  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

How Not to be the Cause of a Workplace Accident

I still get chills thinking about what happened a few summers ago. Several friends and I were sitting around the pool while our kids were swimming. If you are like me, you do a mental head count every few minutes when watching kids swim.

All of a sudden one child was missing because he had slipped under water in the hot tub where no one could see him. Sitting closest, I yanked him out of the water. After a few coughs he was fine and back to swimming. But I wasn't fine and neither were the other parents. We still talk about the close call years later.

The same close calls happen in our homes, on the way to work and on the job every day. But if a close call hasn't happened to you recently, you may be getting complacent about safety.

June is National Safety Month and there is a spike in workplace injuries in the summer - especially in construction and manufacturing industries. I was shocked to find out that the frequency and severity of accidents is actually highest among the most experienced workers because they become too comfortable and less aware of potentially hazardous surroundings. Click here to watch this video where I discuss this fact.

An injured employee hurts profitability. Not only is the injured person suffering from his injury but surrounding co-workers are left to pick up the slack during the injured employee's absence. Companies in the Smart Zone use their emotional competency to stay self aware and manage themselves to stay safe. Here's how:

Provide Training that Pays Off. In one study supervisors in a manufacturing plant received training in emotional competencies. They learned how to listen better, how to help employees resolve problems on their own, how to empower and inspire others, and how to become more effective personal leaders.

After training:

  • Lost-time accidents were reduced by 50 percent

  • Formal grievances were reduced from 15 to 3 per year

  • The plant exceeded productivity goals by $250,000

Boost Confidence in Your Organization. People who feel insecure in their jobs are more likely to ignore safety procedures at work than are people with greater job security, according to a study in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. This study goes on to say, "When people are told layoffs will occur, production numbers go up, but safety compliance and product quality suffer." As a result, workplace accidents and injuries increase. If employees don't trust you or the company then safety compliance suffers.

Delay Immediate Gratification. "Being safe (feels like it) wastes time," is what field supervisors at a major building products company tell me. It's true that attending a safety meeting, putting on your seat belt, taping down an extension cord or stretching your muscles all take time. But I bet you never worried about the time it took to put a life jacket on your child at the lake? Preventing an accident is significantly less timely that dealing with an accident.

Know your Blind Spots. In a study of highly successful executives the following blind spots led to less self awareness:

  • Unrealistic, or unattainable, goals

  • Compulsively hardworking to the point of burnout

  • Drives others too hard

  • Insatiable need for recognition

  • Power hungry

  • Need to seem perfect

If you have these personal characteristics it can lead to a higher risk of you getting hurt both on and off the job.

Use Empathy to Motivate. Empathy is the awareness of the feelings, needs and concerns of others. Build employee buy-in for safety compliance by having workers commit to safe work practices for the sake of their own families.

bottom of page