The Comcast Crash Video – When Blind Safety Compliance is Dangerous

The Comcast Crash Video – When Blind Safety Compliance Causes Accidents

imageThis is the latest unsafety video (below) to go viral and of course there are the usual ignorant arguments firing up on social media about how stupid everybody is. Some say these Comcast Xfinity Cable Repair Guys should be more aware of and respectful of what is going on around them rather than just saying “I have a job to do” and “I need as much stuff as I can get to keep people out of the way so that I don’t get hit” others say they are in the right  and that drivers should slow down when conditions are like this and I think I would also ignore someone whiny person yelling at me with a camera in their hand!! – whatever the case, the outcome is not ideal and this could have turned really ugly.

As Rob Long once wrote in “Compliance or Defiance”

Rather than actually trying to understand why people make decisions and judgments, the popular response is to label someone as ‘an idiot’. Once a person is labelled as an idiot, they no longer need to be taken seriously nor, treated humanly. The black and white mindset assists the dehumanization of risk too.    

This is exactly what is happening in the video from both sides – empathy and understanding is long gone!!

Although we don’t know anything of the back ground and social issues at play here (ie do these guys have to put up with abuse on a regular basis and are just desensitized to it?)  What concerns me is the mindless and dogmatic application of the safety rule “one cone per 10mph – we have 5 in a 40 zone so it must be safe”. Regardless of what is actually going on outside of whatever safe operating procedure is being strictly adhered to, there is no appreciation of risk, no flexibility and no thinking outside the square is allowed or encouraged. Was there an overriding fear of punishment if the road blocking procedure wasn’t strictly complied with or are these guys just dumbed down by Safety and unable to effectively discern risk beyond the checklist? This is the by-product and unintended consequence of strict compliance that is rarely considered. You can bet that Comcast will now quickly implement a procedure on precisely how to manage similar scenarios – which are unlikely to ever be exactly the same – this is why employees need to be able to think and make smart decisions, in order to deal with the unexpected, regardless of what the golden rules may say!

Rob Sams writes in “Are You Creating an Obeyance Culture”:

When an organisation focuses only on legislation and rules, people are often treated as objects within a system. This is because the focus often becomes about the system and perfection and there is little understanding of how people make decision and judgments. This may actually increase risk in an organisation because people work out of fear rather than understanding, follow process rather than thinking creatively, and are more concerned with perfectionism than learning.

In the article “The Regression of Safety and the Dangers of Hypercompliance”, the authors introduce this same thought:

Does hypercompliance tend to improve or hinder safety performance? This article examines the evolutionary path that led to hypercompliance and why it appears to be a good solution yet has unintended consequences. Those consequences, although unintentional, defeat the established goal of hypercompliance.

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