Is Your Attitude Hazardous to Your Health?

By Carl and Deb Potter, Potter and Associates

Why does a worker make the decision to bypass a safeguard, take a shortcut or not wear personal protective equipment? Such unsafe behavior often leads to injury-to the employee or someone else. A safety director in a utility once remarked, “We don’t work in a dangerous workplace, we work in a hazardous workplace that we make dangerous by not following safety procedures and wearing our personal protective equipment.” When workers make decisions that change their workplace from hazardous to dangerous, we wonder why. The answer maybe found in what we call the Personal Decision Making Model (PDMM).

5 Hazardous Attitudes and What to Do About Them

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Research shows that there are five primary hazardous attitudes:

  1. Anti-authority
  2. Impulsivity
  3. Invulnerability
  4. Macho
  5. Resignation

Most, if not all, workers have experienced at least one of these attitudes at least once in a career. A worker may even experience multiple hazardous attitudes simultaneously. The PDMM addresses five hazardous attitudes toward safety.

Hazardous Attitude #1

Anti-authority occurs when the worker feels that he or she is being forced by an authority to comply with rules, procedure or use of equipment. With this attitude, the worker is blind to the idea that behaving safely is a prudent decision. Imagine that the highway patrol in your state (the authority) is on vacation and everybody is able to drive as fast as they wish. Get the picture? Many drivers would not consider the speed limit as a safe idea.

Remedy: Lead yourself and other workers to work safely because it is everyone’s choice, not the company’s. If they don’t want to follow the safety guidelines, then make it clear that they need to work elsewhere.

Hazardous Attitude #2

Impulsivity is a hazardous attitude where a person doesn’t stop to think about the consequences of not wearing protective gear or following safety procedures. Impulsivity is the reason Wal-Mart has all that candy in the check-out line. It is easy to grab a candy bar without thinking, and at work it may be easy to act automatically without considering what might happen as a result.

Remedy: Slow down and consider your moves ahead of time. “Know” what will happen when you do something. Quick decisions in a hazardous workplace are personally costly to you and your family.

Hazardous Attitude #3

Invulnerability takes place with individuals who do not believe it can happen to them. It is difficult for a human being to imagine his or her hand being burned, cut, mangled or smashed. When an injury takes place the individual will say, “I can’t believe it happened!” Sadly, many people understand their personal vulnerability after an injury to themselves or someone close to them.

Remedy: As much as we say that you have to believe in a zero-injury workplace, in order to reach that goal, we have to also believe and know that an injury can occur to us or a co-worker in a split second. Understand the limits to your body and protect yourself by following safety procedures and wearing proper gear.

Hazardous Attitude #4

“Macho” is a serious condition usually attributed to the male species and is evidenced when a person thinks he is too tough to get hurt. This condition is the result of low self-esteem and, contrary to popular belief, is not limited to men. A worker who has a macho attitude will often fall into the invulnerability and antiauthority attitudes as well. Sitting in the back of the room at a safety meeting with sunglasses on and arms crossed, this macho worker is using body language to show everyone else they are too good to learn anything. The problem is that many young workers will follow suit because they enter a workforce with less information and this can cause them to fall into the wrong crowd. Macho workers get hurt because their macho attitude is a barrier to learning.

Remedy: Know this, macho worker: Everyone has your number. When you sit at the back of the room with your hat and dark glasses on nobody is impressed. Want to impress everyone? Strike up the courage to sit on the front row. Besides, everyone will wonder what you’re up to.

Hazardous Attitude #5

Resignation is a hazardous attitude because the worker resigns his or herself to the idea that injuries are like the lottery and they stop trying to make it safer workplace: Eventually my number will come up. This resignation comes from a lack of safety training that helps them understand the science of safety. Resigning to the idea that injuries are just going to happen causes the worker to begin a subliminal behavior that will lead to an injury. Resignation to injuries is a way to provide an excuse for poor safety performance.

Remedy: Know that injuries happen when you get in a hurry, take shortcuts, stop following procedures, and take your protective gear off-all of which cause a hazardous workplace to turn dangerous. Learn about safety. Every hazard can be handled in a safe way. You can get rid of or abate the hazard. Control the hazard through procedures or wear PPE to protect your body from being injured by the hazard.

A Sure-Fire Remedy for Hazardous Attitudes

Personal safety is a goal that every worker should take pride in every day. Companies carry insurance to protect the business from someone who makes a decision to turn a hazard into a danger. Human decision is the No. 1 cause of almost every injury. Make the decision today to protect yourself and co-workers by handling your hazardous attitude. If you feel that you cannot be honest with yourself, ask those around you which of these attitudes might be having a negative effect on your ability to behave safely. When you do this, it is more likely that you will experience a zero-injury workplace, where everyone gets to go home to their families every day without injury.

Carl Potter, CSP, CMC and Deb Potter, PhD, CMC work with organizations that target a zero-injury workplace so everyone can go home to their families every day without injury. As advocates of a zero-injury workplace, they are speakers, authors and consultants to industry. For information about their services, contact them at Potter and Associates International Inc. 1-800-259-6209 or

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