NSC Regional Conference Features Keynote on Complacency

The 2019 National Safety Council (NSC) Regional Conference, held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans featured a compelling keynote from Jack Jackson, Senior Safety Consultant for SafeStart. The presentation, 10 Feet Tall and Bulletproof, focused on the difference between human error and complacency, which Johnson says is distinct because it’s difficult to diagnose.

Jackson, who has been a SafeStart consultant for 12 years, previously worked on job sites around the country and is President and CEO of Zion Safety Consulting. “What I’ve learned is that rules don’t keep people safe,” Jackson explained of his time as Safety Manager for a manufacturing firm in San Antonio. “We don’t get hurt because we don’t know the rules.” He went on to explain a childhood of risk taking and a career playing college football in Missouri as personal examples.

According to Jackson, “at risk behavior” can be categorized in three ways – unintentional, habitual and deliberate. Unintentional at risk behavior means behavior that comes from inexperience; habitual behavior is reinforced by productivity or never learning the rules; and deliberate at risk behavior is what Jackson calls the “10 feet tall and bulletproof” attitude of employee complacency.

In Jackson’s view, there are three stages of complacency:

  1. It won’t happen to me. Ex: hitting your shin on a trailer hitch.
  2. Inability to recognize the hazard without an external stimulus. Ex: rumble strips on the highway.
  3. Consequences of an accident.

To illustrate the final concept, Jackson explained what happened to a co-worker of his in San Antonio who became paralyzed from the neck down after a ramp collapsed on him when Jackson stood on it. The co-worker had been warned to use the safety arm for lockout/tagout, but used the typical excuse, I’ve been doing it this way for years. Jackson said that this accident has affected him ever since and that it inspired his work on complacency in the workplace. “It’s easy to forget about the emotional and social consequences of an accident,” he said. “But there’s a family behind every single one.”

The NSC Regional Conferences are held around the country every year. For more information about the Southern Regional event, see the conference website here.

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