Magazine article Occupational Hazards

What Does Safety Success Look like? Because of the Reactive Approach to Measuring and Managing Safety Prevalent in the World Today, the True Definition of Safety Success Has Been Obscured

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

What Does Safety Success Look like? Because of the Reactive Approach to Measuring and Managing Safety Prevalent in the World Today, the True Definition of Safety Success Has Been Obscured

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The surface definition of safety success on most safety professionals' minds is simply a reduction in the failure rate. We have been so busy avoiding failure that we need to remind ourselves what success looks like.

The word "success" tends to surface every time the accident rates go down, but does the lack of accidents really equate to safety success?

The answer is a definite "maybe." Reductions in accidents can be the result of successful safety efforts. Reductions also can occur as part of the normal variation in accident rates and a dozen or more other reasons, all of which are temporary. Like the Hawthorne Effect, they are real but not easily sustainable.

So what does safety success look like? How can we recognize it among the temporary imitations? I would like to suggest that all truly successful safety efforts have all or most of the following qualities in common. The more of these qualities, the more successful the effort.

1.) Proactive

It is difficult or impossible to become proactive until you have become successfully reactive. Truly successful safety efforts have begun to max out traditional reactive safety and go well beyond these minimal efforts to "get ahead of the curve" in safety efforts. Success in reactive safety generates the necessity for proactive safety.

When you use accident investigation data to improve safety, the more you succeed, the less data you have. Before the accident data disappears it does another nasty trick: it looses its statistical significance.

I have worked with dozens of safety professionals who were chasing the last few data points of accident investigations and becoming increasingly frustrated with their lack of ability to generate further improvements. That last bit of accident data tells you that you are not perfect; but it doesn't tell you how to get better.

2.) Focused

When I ask workers what their greatest risks are, I usually get as many answers as workers interviewed. Traditional safety generates so many rules, procedures, JSAs, etc., that they tend to overwhelm and diffuse worker attention.

Truly successful safety efforts generate a focus on the most important dangers and the precautions that can best avoid them. The narrow focus needs to be communicated relentlessly until workers actually memorize the list.

Many sites create acronyms or other mnemonics to aid the learning and retention of the focus list. Then they reinforce the list until it becomes second nature or even habitual. Once workers automatically take the most critical precautions, the accidents rates go down and stay down. I often suggest that FOCUS is an acronym for Forming One Common Understanding of Safety.

3.) Transformational

I asked a safety professional in a new client firm, "What are you currently focusing your personnel on in safety?" He responded that the corporate safety department had a new standard for steel-toed boots and that he had received complaints about his maintenance personnel not doing good housekeeping, so he was focusing on those two areas. This actually is a narrower focus than I usually find, but it also is an ineffective focus.

When we completed a Pareto Analysis of the division's accident data for the past 5 years, we found that if they had perfect compliance with wearing steel-toed boots and were doing perfect housekeeping, they would have had a 3 percent reduction in recordable accidents. We found four categories of precautions that could have, if perfect, produced a 79 percent reduction in accidents.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Precautions that can potentially have a significant impact on accidents are called transformational precautions. Truly excellent safety efforts are not striving for modest gains, but working toward goals that can truly transform the accident rates with a minimal effort.

4. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.