The Psychology of Safety – Taking Risks

By Bob Lapidus, CSP (Retired), CSMS

There is a psychology to safety that most of us know exists, but maybe we don’t discuss it as such.  It comes in a variety of ways, one of which is taking risks.

Think about taking risks.  Think about yourself.  It’s actually easier that way.  In my case, I look at myself as a low-risk taker.  Instead of becoming a USAF pilot, I became a USAF Base Ground Safety Officer, seeking to prevent losses on an air force base.  Then I continued in the safety management field for the remainder of my career.  When I have a choice of taking a risk versus safety, I choose safety . . . most of the time.

On the other hand, there are many other people who when confronted with taking a risk versus safety, choose the risk every time.  What drives them to take risks?

The thrill of taking a risk?
The thought that s/he can take the risk without something bad happening?
The pressure of time to get something done?
Peer pressure to take risks?
Knowing someone else took the same risk and got away with it?
Thinking the risk is worth the potential reward, no matter the potential consequences?
Thinking there is low probability of getting hurt?
Thinking that taking risks makes life more exciting and therefore more fulfilling?

We read about people taking risks and sustaining severe injuries or being killed.  Normally in those cases, we learn something about how the injury or death occurred and we try to take actions to prevent such incidents from happening again.

Yet, the memory fades and life goes on, and the same kind of incident occurs again and again because we say, it won’t happen to me.

Risk taking as a part of the psychology of safety needs to be addressed on an ongoing basis because it is such an inherent part of safety management and accident prevention.

Talking about this subject with others in our lives is critical to preventing the preventable accident and their results.

Safety specialists and their management teams need to continually strive to embed a culture of safety into their organizations.  Risk taking needs to be addressed with everyone.


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For More Information:

Go to www.safetycenter.org for more information about Safety Center’s Safety Management Specialist Certificate.

After completing this nine-day program, graduates may take the exam to achieve the Certified Safety Management Specialist (CSMS) designation. Recipients of the CSMS receive a beautiful plaque and become part of an elite group of safety specialists who have achieved this recognition. Once this certification is attained, successful candidates keep it for the rest of their lives without any additional requirements or fees.