Rationalizing Unsafe Choices

DF SafetyHealth and Safety Tips, Personal Safety Guide

Safety is communicated through training, policies, procedures, and many other standards, giving us the ability to know how to work safely and mitigate hazards. In most cases, a failure to follow existing standards is not so much a lack of knowledge, but the result of choices we make. And making the right choice, day in and day out is often quite challenging. 

Working safely is something we must work at every single day, while some days are easier than others, people tend to rationalize ways to not work safely for several different reasons. Even when the company culture is strong, there will be those who try to rationalize safety. The choices we make when it comes to safety have a bigger impact on an injury-free workplace than most of us realize. 

Ways to Rationalize Unsafe Work:

  • Following the norms to fit in 
  • Overestimating personal experience and ability 
  • Familiarity & Complacency 

Conditions that make us more likely to rationalize unsafe work:

  • Lack of supervision/enforcement 
  • Deadlines/Perceived Deadlines 
  • Energy levels/Mood 

Example of rationalizing unsafe work:

It is the end of the workday and a worker forgot their tools on a scaffold deck that is in the process of being erected. They have already removed their fall protection and say to themselves, “it’s only going to take a minute to go up and come right back down. I have experience, and have never even come close to falling so I will be fine”. 

Does the example above sound familiar? It should! We have all rationalized poor choices in our lives, whether it be at work or in our personal lives. It is important to recognize and address this concern so we can make better decisions. 

Here are some closing thoughts: 

You don’t need to rely on your supervisor to force you to do the right thing. A perceived lack of supervision or enforcement is not a good reason to not follow safe practices. Reflect on this when speeding down a road that rarely has police presence, just because everyone else is doing 120km/hr. on the highway does not make it right and does not make it safe 

You can make the right decision regardless of what others are doing. 

Be aware of your mood and energy levels and their effects on your choices. To use the same example, do you make different driving decisions when you are fatigued? Irritated? Angry? 

Use due caution when evaluating your own experience and abilities. Is it ok to drive 120km/hr. because you are an experienced driver and have above-average skills?  

I would encourage anyone reading to take a few moments of self-reflection and make an attempt to adhere to safe work practices and procedures on and off the job. Set an example for others to follow.  

Have a great week!