November 1, 2023 | Emily Pritt

Why We Take Risks at Work


In the world of workplace safety, risk management is a top priority. Employers and safety professionals are constantly seeking ways to mitigate and prevent workplace accidents, but the psychology of risk perception plays a pivotal role in how employees make decisions regarding safety. To better understand this phenomenon, we’ll delve into the psychology of risk perception and explore how TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis can help organizations identify and address the underlying causes of risky behavior in the workplace.

Understanding Risk Perception

Risk perception is a complex interplay of psychological and cognitive processes that influence how individuals perceive and respond to risks. It’s crucial to recognize that risk perception is subjective and can vary from person to person. Some common factors that influence risk perception include:

  • Familiarity: People tend to perceive familiar risks as less threatening and unfamiliar risks as more dangerous.
  • Control: A sense of control over a situation can lead to lower risk perception, while a lack of control can heighten risk perception.
  • Voluntariness: People may perceive risks associated with voluntary actions as lower than those linked to involuntary actions.
  • Media and social influences: How risks are portrayed in the media and how they are discussed within a social group can significantly impact risk perception.
  • Personal experience: Previous experiences with similar risks can shape an individual’s perception of new risks.
  • Cognitive biases: Human beings are prone to cognitive biases, such as optimism bias, which leads them to underestimate personal risk.

Why We Take Risks at Work

Understanding why individuals take risks at work is essential for creating a safer work environment. Kusev et al. (2017) elaborate on several psychological factors that contribute to these risk-taking behaviors:

Overconfidence: Overconfidence bias can lead employees to believe they are less likely to face an accident or injury, making them more willing to take risks.

Complacency: As employees become more familiar with their work environment and tasks, they may become complacent, leading to a disregard for safety measures.

Peer pressure: Group dynamics play a significant role in risk perception. Employees may be more inclined to take risks when they see their colleagues doing the same.

Incentives: Financial incentives or pressure to meet production targets can drive employees to take risks to achieve rewards or avoid punishment.

Lack of awareness: Sometimes, employees may not fully grasp the potential risks associated with their actions due to a lack of training or information.

TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis: Identifying Underlying Causes

To address the issue of risk-taking at work, organizations can turn to methodologies like TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis. This systematic approach aims to identify the root causes of incidents or accidents rather than merely focusing on the surface-level symptoms.

  1. Identifying contributing factors: TapRooT® RCA encourages a comprehensive analysis of an incident to uncover all contributing or causal factors. This goes beyond blaming the individual and looks into systemic issues that might have led to the risky behavior.
  2. Human error recognition: Rather than blaming human error, TapRooT® RCA seeks to understand why individuals made certain choices by examining their thought processes and perceptions. Click for an informative podcast on human error with a founder of TapRooT® RCA, Mark Paradies.
  3. Improving safety culture: By identifying and addressing the underlying causes of risky behavior, organizations can work toward improving their safety culture. This involves implementing changes at the organizational level to reduce risk perception and encourage safer behavior. Check out this podcast from my colleague, Alex Paradies, on eradicating complacency in the workplace.

TapRooT® RCA courses

Our TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis courses are the ultimate solution for individuals and teams determined to boost their performance, prevent incidents, and take a proactive approach to problem-solving. With our unparalleled training, hundreds of thousands of people have already mastered the art of using TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis to identify and tackle issues effectively.

Discover the full potential of TapRooT® by exploring our courses. With just one click, you can access all the information you need. Or, to get personalized guidance, speak with one of our expert instructors at 865-539-2139.


It is important to understand how people perceive risks in order to create safer workplaces. Taking risks is influenced by both individual and environmental factors, which organizations need to address. TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis is a valuable tool that assists in identifying and addressing the underlying causes of risky behavior, enabling organizations to establish a safety-oriented culture that prioritizes the well-being of employees. By acknowledging that risk perception is subjective and multifaceted, organizations can take proactive measures to mitigate risks and promote a safer working environment.

Feel free to contact me or follow me on LinkedIn for more TapRooT® RCA content.

Human Performance, Root Cause Analysis, Safety
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