‘Normalization of deviance’ in workplace safety

Nov 30, 2023
Written by WR Communications


Whenever management’s workplace safety oversight diminishes, safety as a priority also loses its importance to the business. When this happens, and no one seems to notice, it is a condition called “normalization of deviance.” Two common factors contributing to “normalization of deviance” in workplace safety include:

Supervisors and safety leads that are not out in the field or on the floor as much as they should be. This lack of presence means employees do not have the oversight necessary to catch problems before they become issues. In many organizations, these leaders may be new in their position and have minimal experience and training. A safety director’s insufficient knowledge and experience can often result in a lack of knowing how to work safely.

When coworkers stop following the company’s safety standards, others tend to conform to the behaviors of their peers. When the whole team stops paying attention to potential risks, it is not surprising to see incidents and injuries increasing.

Recommended actions:

Positive safety behaviors among colleagues can create a social norm that promotes safety throughout the workplace. Bad safety performance often shows bigger problems in the workplace and how the organization works. If safety worsens, other things like quality, delivery, reliability, efficiency, or cost tend to go in the wrong direction.

Performing systematic and periodic reviews of safety trends with your leadership team is a vital practice. If you need help,  contact us at [email protected] to learn more about how WR’s Safety Ambassador program can help you.

Our safety team is available to help members improve their safety program beyond compliance and move toward quality safety practices.


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