Overcoming the illusion of invulnerability in the workplace

No matter how many safety training courses emphasize how dangerous it may be to work with electricity, chemicals, or cargo unless proper safety protocols are followed, there is always a percentage of employees who believe they aren't vulnerable to such risks: until it's too late.

Those types of perceptions need to be changed before injuries or fatalities prove them wrong, say authors Anna Floyd and H. Landis Floyd II in "The Value of Vulnerability," an article published in the American Society of Safety Engineers' Professional Safety journal.

The Power of Narrative

The authors argue that safety professionals must ensure that their training courses go beyond statistics in conveying how to properly manage risk.

"Safety training"_without a focus on risk susceptibility and severity is a disservice to workers," the authors write.

"A worker's perception that he or she has a low likelihood of suffering an electrical burn is accurate, yet among those who are involved in such an electrical incident, their likelihood of being killed is high. This discrepancy raises an important point about how people conceptualize risk."

Whatever beliefs employees may have about their own vulnerability, the authors encourage safety professionals to incorporate stories in their training sessions as a way to personalize potentially dangerous situations.

"Stories about people affected by incidents that include photos, names, and references to personable characteristics will persuade much more than simply presenting statistics," the article states.

"The more a worker can relate to a story's character, the more likely he or she is to be transported and affected by that story, and the more likely he or she will be to think 'that could be me.'"