Three Ways to Battle Safety Complacency

It’s great when everyone feels comfortable in their jobs, knowing what’s expected of them and knowing how to do it. But when workers and management start feeling too comfortable, it’s time to watch for signs of complacency, one of the greatest detractors from workplace safety. If your company is battling a complacent workforce, your ace in the hole is your front line supervisor. Here are three ways a supervisor can help.

Complacency Knows No Bounds

Complacency can affect all levels of a company. On the floor, workers may become overly comfortable in their positions. This can lead to inattention and to injuries.

Management can also become complacent, especially if too much emphasis is placed on the company safety record. When the safety record is good, it’s easy to shift focus to other areas such as productivity, quality, sales or customer service. In turn, this shift in management focus may be noticed by workers, further swinging their attention away from safety in favor of other company objectives.

As a supervisor, it’s easy to become complacent as well. We are often bombarded with high priority tasks, so we expect our workers to perform as they have been trained.

To counter the effects of complacency, there are three things a front line supervisor can do.

1. Observe Behaviors

It is extremely important for supervisors to monitor their workforce for signs of complacency. Supervisors know their staff better than anyone and should be able to identify when workers become too comfortable or overconfident. Telltale signs of complacency are:

  • Workers overlooking small details; or
  • Taking shortcuts to complete routine tasks.

If your workers are displaying these signs, you need to introduce methods that will challenge workers regularly to remain safe on the job. These can be:

  • Incentive programs;
  • Individual goal setting; or
  • Safety awareness campaigns.

You must keep safety at the forefront of worker consciousness, and remind your workers that safety needn’t be compromised to meet other company objectives.

2. Supplement Group Training With Individual Assistance

Most companies have training programs that comply with OSHA safety training mandates. These training programs are often held for groups in conference or training rooms. But believing too much in the effectiveness of group training is one way that companies display their complacency.

A supervisor’s job is to ensure that the group training is reflected in individual on-the-job situations. You must make the training immediately relevant to the workers. Workers can sit through the training sessions and then go to work and circumvent a guard to prevent a jam or work on a piece of equipment without first locking it out.

Any time a worker is found to be performing a task contrary to the safety training, the supervisor must address it on the spot. Individual work instructions are very effective when delivered immediately in response to an unsafe work practice.

3. Communicate Upwards

Supervisors are accustomed to receiving instruction from higher level management and disseminating the information among the workers. However, communicating safety needs from workers to managers is a great way to fight complacency as well.

Whether it’s a safety concern raised by a worker or a vigilant supervisor’s observation of frequent unsafe behavior in the same area of the workplace, communicate it. Notifying management of unsafe conditions keeps everyone focused on safety.

Just remember to follow up with both the management and the worker(s) involved. Workers want to know that their supervisors truly are concerned with their individual well-being, and managers are people, too; they may forget or get sidetracked.

Keep in mind that the goal is to get results when we become aware of any unsafe conditions or areas in need of improvement.


Anyone can become complacent at work. Front line supervisors are in an excellent position to provide the individual attention needed to keep workers and management focused on workplace safety, while working together to achieve other profitable company objectives.