Overcoming the Paradox of Safety Controls

Posted by Jonathan Pile on Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Anyone who was alive in the 1970's will never forget the clunk-click every trip road safety adverts extolling us to buckle up our seat belts. The fitting of car seat belts became a mandatory road safety law in 1966 but the wearing of seat belts became mandatory in 1983.

 The paradox of safety however is the part of human nature which makes us take more risks the safer we feel. In a 21st Century high performance sports car fitting with impact protection, anti-lock braking, and a host of other features we feel a hundred times safer than the average 1970's saloon car. In the aftermath of seat belt wearing the accident rate rose for a time as people who felt safer wearing belts drove faster. Today we have a host of additional distractions, in car entertainment not to mention intelligent mobile phones. Cars are faster than the 1970's and improvements in design make that extra speed feel the same as that 70's slower car. With more vehicles on the roads driving for work and to work is the most dangerous activity many employees undertake.
ROSPA reports that while annual road fatalities have fallen from 5,000+ in the 1970's to under 2,000 in 2010, the true number of people seriously injured in 2010 is 80,000 per year (even though the official statistic is 22,000)
ROSPA reports that every year despite the law 300 people are killed through not wearing seat belts, 300 through careless driving, 125 from aggressive driving, 430 people killed in accidents involving young drivers, 430 from speeding and a third of fatal and serious road crashes involve someone who was at work.
Companies have a duty of care to ensure that they take action to assess risks in relation to driving for work.

The paradox of safety applies not only to the wearing of seat belts but to all safety systems where employees feel that the operation of a safety system lessens the need for them to take personal responsibility for their own and others safety as a result.

For those involved in Safety training and Consultancy - special attention needs to be paid to engaging with employees to get them to think about safety and to their own actions, and not to either become complacent with systems or slavish follow regulations without taking personal responsibility. Evidence shows this is particularly relevant to annual refresher training which can become repetitious. 

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