The Psychology Of Safety: Why Do People Take Risks?

Posted: 25 May, 2018.

A different angle to look at workplace safety is analysing the psychological reasons as to why situations may occur. As well as looking at the physical obstacles that may cause an accident at work, it can be a good idea to understand why people take the risks in the first place.

There are many ways in which organisations can provide employees with the safest possible working space. With the implementation of risk assessments, training and safety procedures, an employee’s safety can be improved by eliminating certain risks. Nonetheless, complete elimination, whilst a wonderful idea, simply isn’t possible. Even if every conceivable risk could be managed, monitored and prevented, there’s one factor that can’t be avoided, human nature.

Why do people take risks?

  • Overconfidence in abilities – One of the most common reason for individuals taking risks at work can come down to overconfidence. When an employee has been doing a job for a long time, they can become accustomed to their task. Over familiarity can lead to problems when an incident outside of their remit occurs.
  • Cutting corners – Most people have busy lifestyles at work and at home. It’s natural for staff to want a stress free working environment. Health and safety can be associated by some with creating extra work. Therefore, employees tend to opt for carrying out tasks without safety protocol down to their rigid time frames.
  • Immature culture – Workplace jocularity is a great way to blow off some steam and to build strong teams. However, when taken too far, people can place themselves and others in danger. An example of this, as addressed by Veritas Consulting (2018) was ‘The Hard Hat Challenge’ which went viral on YouTube and social media. The challenge saw workers attempting to flip hard hats onto their heads. A few less ‘skilled’ attempts ended up striking them in the face or head. Whilst it provides an important lesson about the strength of hard hats, it also displays how immature culture can lead to accidents and injuries.
  • Lack of knowledge – Some staff may simply not be aware that what they are doing could be dangerous. Without regular training, staff won’t know what hazards they could face and how to overcome a difficult situation.
  • Low motivation – Motivation is key within a workforce. If employees are lacking in morale they are more inclined to rush a task in order to get it done and move on to the next.

Encouraging the right mindset:

It’s important that as an organisation you keep staff motivated through encouraging a positive safety culture. Informing and educating employees of the risks associated with their roles through real life examples can be beneficial. Lastly, provide training in areas such as first aid, fire and manual handling so that if a scenario did occur, they would have a better chance of dealing with it in the best way.

Risk takers at work are vulnerable to experiencing incidents however, with colleagues around, help can be a matter of seconds away. That’s why those working alone need a robust, reliable system in place to provide them with backup in a time of need.

Contact us to find out about our lone worker solutions and how with just a press of a button staff can have round the clock support.


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