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Is it crazy to sacrifice people’s safety just because we can’t guarantee it?


This time my contribution is written in English with the main purpose to share it with a larger croud than just Swedish speaking readers.

Aspects of mishap issues do not only result in potential consequences of impacts in working environment but also psychosocial and economic aspects for various reasons among other things. Consequently, there is a need for a collaborative approach, learning organizations and information sharing. Also the story of cost effectiveness could be highlighted as an additional driver. However, no matter organizational structure there is a need for expertise to structure and use a systematic way of defining what is linked to performance and benefits, what needs to be learned and where the effect is. The use of a systematic way can facilitate the outlook of the accidents no matter the disadvantage is caused intentionally or unintentionally.

We need to learn about what attitudes are causing high risk behavior, how to encourage optimizing of risk assessment and how to detect risk groups and how to facilitate awareness.

Risk taking behavior, unawareness of potential danger, adaption- and reaction time are often linked to implicit influences on present perception and decision making ability e.g. stress, fatigue, complacency, personal issues such as physical and psychological status. It is not fair to always refer to our common sense in situations that require total awareness as it does not only include rational actions based on experience and what we actually can see, we are just human beings and we cannot always draw the best conclusions.

To be able to reason and create understanding of risk behavior one first need to understand a little bit about attitudes and perception.

Most researchers agree that attitudes are not something innate, but they are based by education at home and in school and in other social settings. Development of social attitudes can also be considered in relation to the principles of modern cognitive psychology and attached to the thought patterns we have regarding social events and people.

An attitude has three components: knowledge, emotion and behavior. Knowledge and feeling are directed towards a specific object and the behavior is the reaction that occurs when confronted with the object. There are several different types of attitudes that are often discussed in the context of operational environments and situations. The process in our decision making, therefore our reasoning, is fundamental to the operational personnel. Our reasoning can be influenced by an attitude and leading thereto either an effective or ineffective decision making.

A common example of the impact of changing attitudes, or rather an umbrella term is complacency. This acts as a kind of indicator of our motivation (usually tied to operational situations) and consists of an unconsciously and for various reasons lack of commitment preceded by a period of compliance.

The latter concept is, therefore, the process that causes us to lose commitment and cultivate a subtle exaggerated belief in our own ability to deal with the situation, a kind of indifference. One can say that it is a behavior during application of such indulgence or accommodating, which can lead to changes in attitudes mean that we unknowingly fail to utilize all available knowledge, which is what complacency is about, even though one should be careful using a simplifying word such as complacency.

Ultimately, this leads in turn to a lack of situational awareness, i.e., lack of ability to recognize and perceive the immediate environment that require attention in order to get a satisfactory outlook to handle and process the information of the situation in a way that is required. Situational awareness is often considered to be a simplified expression of several variables that must be considered in the context in which we reason about the concept.

By expressing our individual attitudes, we are strengthening our image of ourselves. There are different attitudes embedded in various arguments about how we relate to different situations and acts against the environment, more or less consciously. This may involve, for example, through poor judgment, try to meet our personal goals and thus manipulate the environment, which students can get the result that we put ourselves in a better light and to write other major responsibilities in the context of errors and mistakes committed.

Individuals with extensive experience in the area – where they often also get plenty of confirmation – can put so much confidence in their own skills, that these people can be too good for its own good. This is also related to the concept of complacency. In simple terms, it is a form of arrogance, which in turn can lead us to ignore the dangers and problems.

With perception we mean the cognitive process that includes our perception of objects and events in our physical and social environments, based on our senses here and now. The process can also be described as a subjective perception of the outside world, which means that we interpret information and create our own world view by our various senses.

Risk perception at the individual level culminates in a behavior, perception is based on personality traits, i.e., how risk averse you are. Two commonly used defense mechanisms against risks is episodic evidence (single cases to the contrary to the stated risk information) and differentiation (while implicitly distinguishes itself from existing examples with elevated risks in order to protect himself from the discomfort and therefore choose not to take the risk into consideration).

Some people consciously choose to take risks by parachuting, rock climbing or engaging in other extreme sports. Many of the cases have a biological explanation; Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects our desire and pleasure feelings. There have been studies (Vanderbilt University in Nashville and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City) who talk about elevated levels of dopamine in the people who take risks. It has been seen high dopamine supplements in individuals who experience their own hazardous situation, which means that they often return to the same situations.

Also depression can lead to increased risk behavior, primarily for two reasons: changes in the perception of risk context and changed attitude to its own security. What is true for light depression and sadness is somewhat unclear except that we know that also this has an impact on cognitive abilities, extended reaction time and it can also lead to impaired concentration.


Risky behavior is of course more delicate to handle in a workplace context than to leave the question open for the community to consider in a larger context. The working environment has the opportunity to develop and implement a culture of safety awareness and positive reporting and thereby recognize and perpetuate attitudes that, in the best possible extent, long-term foster and permeates all activities.

A large proportion of all decisions we make are include risk taking, i.e. if there is no information about the decision alternatives or if the decision maker does not have time to consider the available information, there are different schools of how you look at risk behavior as rational versus irrational.

The bottom line is that we are unaware of the risks of ignorance and deliberate risk in case that we do not believe that the behavior will lead to an accident. Behavior is complicated. We can judge and make assumptions based on scientific theories but never know or explain human behavior with certainty. The other way around though is that we do know what will have probable affection on us and the surroundings – even if the outcome differ between one individual and another. That is the essence of Human Factors.




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