Understanding and combating complacency

26 May 2022
12:10

Understanding and combating complacency

A lot of people use, and we often hear the term complacency but, do we fully understand what we mean. Complacency is defined as: doing a task many times, without injury/incident, so that you are no longer fully aware of the risks and dangers involved.
If we got injured every time we did something that was unsafe, then complacency would not exist. For example if every time we walked along looking at our smart phone, we walked into a pole and hurt ourselves it would not takes us long to learn not to walk without keeping our eyes on path.

We might consider that someone was complacent and that is why they were speeding, or they are complacent and that is why they are not wearing a life jacket. But these are quite different types of complacency. Speeding has an immediate benefit (the person likely gets to their destination faster) with a conditional consequence (typically you only have a crash if something unexpected happens and you cannot stop or avoid it). Whereas not wearing a life jacket has an immediate drawback (it takes some time to put on and can be uncomfortable) with a conditional consequence (it is only needed if an incident occurs, for example the boat sinks).

Understanding more about complacency will help us to develop better strategies to manage it and reduce it more effectively. Knowing the type of complacency we are dealing with can help to target the intervention strategy.