The Seven Deadly Sin of Gas Detection: Complacency – the common factor
We recently ran a series of articles under the guise of the Seven Deadly Sins of Gas Detection, which talked about gas detection and common mistakes of different kinds that could cost you your life or someone else’s life. However, the real deadly sin that sits at the root of all is complacency – not taking gases and gas hazards as a serious and present danger.
Familiarity breeds contempt
Complacency was identified as a major factor behind industrial accidents including those relating to gas in a 2014 survey. This complacency is often the result of previous experience. People going about their working lives frequently repeat the same tasks or take the same routes without incident. It is easy to understand how this can be taken as evidence of the absence of a hazard either at a personal or organisational level. For example, statistics on confined space entry published in the Renewable Fuels Program Carbon Dioxide Safety Policy (p13) show that 80% of those who died in a confined space had previously entered that same space and come to no harm.
Much of the complacency issue comes down to 2 factors:
- Good habits
When you get in your car, you don’t assess the chances of being in an accident and decide whether or not to wear your seatbelt based on this judgement. It is automatic – done without a conscious thought. If use and maintenance of gas detection equipment was as routine as use of a seatbelt, many lives would be saved.
- Awareness of the hazard
Hopefully, you have not been involved in a serious traffic accident, but anyone living in well-populated areas will have encountered them to some degree. You may have been unfortunate enough to witness an accident; you will certainly have been held up in the traffic jams that result, as will friends and family. As such, it is difficult to deny the existence of the danger.
Gas related accidents are not as common as other industrial accidents. Gas hazards cannot be seen. If a detector isn’t worn or operating properly, a potentially hazardous situation may not be detected. All this could result in an underestimation of the likelihood of danger.
Complacency is not just displayed by individuals. It can be seen at the organisational level, as well. A recent article in Health and Safety International highlighted how an absence of accidents led to organisational complacency that was considered to be a significant contributory factor to major industrial accidents: Deepwater Horizon, Texas City and LaPorte. The author, Andrew Sharman, observes that, “the absence of accidents does not indicate the existence of safety. Those never ending downward trending LTI (Lost Time Injury) charts (or LGI – Looking Good Indexes – as I like to call them) often inspire over-confidence”.
In writing about the Seven Deadly Sins of Gas Detection, we reflected on the kinds of gas detection failings that we encounter through our business as gas detection experts in an attempt to raise awareness and encourage good habits. Our hope is that by highlighting these most serious pitfalls, we will promote gas detection safe practices.
If you have any questions or would like more information on any of the issues raised by the Seven Deadly Sins of Gas Detection, please contact us and we will be pleased to help. You can also get more gas detection information by following our Blog, our LinkedIn pages or on Twitter.