Who cares?

Today, I am taking a closer look at carelessness on the job and its impact not just on safety and health, but also its effects on productivity. Carelessness impacting productivity from an OSH perspective can be viewed from many points of view; including examining what are the tangible benefits that a worker receives for adhering to OSH policies.

On the other hand, where there is no inherent safety and health cultural foundation that promotes high productivity, supported by an aggressive OSH policy, some researchers have suggested that this trend in workplace behaviour can impact job performance in the following ways:

* Inconsistent work quality

* Poor concentration and lack of focus

* Lowered productivity or erratic work patterns

* Increased absenteeism or on-the-job “physical presence but psychological absence”

* Unexplained disappearances from the job site

* Carelessness, mistakes or errors in judgment

* Needless risk taking

* Disregard for safety of self and others – on-the-job and off-the-job accidents

* Extended lunch periods and early departures.

These areas of workplace behaviour, when examined during an OSH audit under the sub-heading of human factor engineering, can in some cases, point to factors that are directly related to personal issues of a worker that impact workplace productivity.

These include:

* Workplace Behaviour

* Frequent financial problems

* Avoidance of friends and colleagues

* Blaming others for own problems and shortcomings

* Complaints about problems at home

* Deterioration in personal appearance or personal hygiene

* Complaints, excuses and time off for vaguely defined illnesses or family problems.

Consider the following scenario: an employee at an engineering firm has been working on engineering designs for the construction of a multi-storey building. One major consideration given to the employee during design discussions were reports received about the quality of the surrounding lands, suggesting that additional research would be required to ensure that comprehensive planning was undertaken to ensure the quality of the final designs.

Over a period of several months, all of the construction drawings were completed and work was started on the site. One year later, a multi-storey, multi-tenant building was completed, and subsequently occupied. Two years later, there was failure in the structure and it collapsed; several people were injured and killed in the process. Investigations later revealed that the collapse was due in part to sub-standard construction and poorly enforced safety regulations.

There have been several reports regarding the effects of poorly enforced safety regulations and their impact on productivity. On March 22, NBC News reported that in China three people were killed and several injured when the fourth floor of a building under construction collapsed. NBC News said that China had been experiencing several of these incidents over the past few years due to ineffective safety regulations, worker carelessness, and below standard construction practices.

Let us revisit some of the factors attributed to employee personal behaviour while on the job that can also be attributed to careless action on the job.

There is a radical change in workplace behaviour by the employee: Is this behaviour documented by human resource managers? If it is not, can this lack of observation of employee behaviour by HR managers result in lost productivity and injuries on the job? Current research suggests that it does.

Frequent financial problems: Persons serving more than one employer in order to meet personal financial obligations requiring both day and night duty, resulting in worker exhaustion on one job site can cause mistakes that may lead to entire production lines being closed due to poor quality products being produced.

Avoidance of friends and colleagues: Domestic activities impacting work performance. An example may be the death in a family, or a bitter divorce battle between spouses changing the behaviour of the worker in the workplace. Irritability, low tolerance, impatience and unwarranted bouts of anger between colleagues may force HR mangers to suspend or dismiss the worker involved.

Blaming others for own problems and shortcomings: Refusing to recognise skill levels and dismissing the idea of receiving further training to correct work performance.

Complaints about problems at home: Bringing personal home issues to the work site and ignoring company rules on the subject. The resulting action creates divisions among emoloyees caught in the personal affairs of the worker and impacting productivity on the job due to constant unrelated conversations while working.

Deterioration in personal appearance or personal hygiene: The use of drugs and alcohol by a worker before and during working hours. This behaviour affects individual productivity, contributing to mistakes on the job. This single behaviour has been linked to poor quality production of manufactured items, injuries, and in extreme cases, death of workers.

Complaints, excuses, and time off for vaguely defined illnesses or family problems: This is another contributing factor, which has been attributed carelessness on the job. These are absences due to nebulous reasons that are often used for poor quality results due to worker no shows. While there may be extenuating circumstances attributable to worker carelessness, the underlining reasoning still cannot be ignored.

Carelessness on the job in some countries has been described as “near epidemic” due to poorly enforced safety and health regulations. With the proclamation of the Safety and Health at Work Act, OSH professionals and consultants are all collectively hoping that this issue will be given the attention and priority that it needs.

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