Facing the Unthinkable: Fatality Prevention in the Workplace: How Workplace Culture, Organizational Systems and Leadership Affect the Risk of Fatalities, and What Safety Professionals Can Do to Prevent Deaths

By Walter, Laura | Occupational Hazards, January 2008 | Go to article overview

Facing the Unthinkable: Fatality Prevention in the Workplace: How Workplace Culture, Organizational Systems and Leadership Affect the Risk of Fatalities, and What Safety Professionals Can Do to Prevent Deaths


Walter, Laura, Occupational Hazards


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

No employer, family member or coworker ever wants a fatality to occur in the workplace. But it happens. In 2006 alone, 5,703 people died on the job, representing a multitude of poor choices and system failures that might have been avoided with better information or preparation.

Preventing workplace fatalities is the indisputable goal of any safety management system, but too often, the system breaks down. Employers fail in their leadership roles, well-meaning safety managers approach fatality prevention from the wrong direction or employees develop feelings of invincibility and the unthinkable occurs: someone dies on the job.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and the Alcoa Foundation hosted an event last November to establish a dialogue about occupational deaths. The two-day Fatality Prevention in the Workplace Forum, which attracted more than 150 safety professionals and industry leaders, was the starting point for a discussion of the causes of fatalities, the best ways to prevent them and suggestions for future areas of research.

OCCUPATIONAL Hazards spoke to some key presenters from the forum to determine exactly what companies, safety professionals and employees should be doing to prevent the unthinkable.

Frequent vs. Fatal

Fred A. Manuele, president of Hazards Limited, presented his research on workplace fatalities and serious injuries at the IUP forum. One of the biggest myths he set out to discredit is that reducing frequently occurring injuries also will prevent serious or fatal incidents.

Manuele says this approach "has been proven untrue" and stresses that fatal incidents often occur during non-routine tasks, the type safety professionals may have the least experience dealing with. And even if a company has a stellar safety history when it comes to serious incidents, it can be risky to take comfort in rates.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"You should not be deluding yourselves that you don't have serious injury potential just because your rates are down," Manuele warns.

Lon Ferguson, chair of the IUP safety sciences department and a key organizer of the fatality forum, agrees that injury rates can be misleading or can create false reassurance. He particularly questions the fact that total recordable rates seem to be decreasing across the board, but fatality rates aren't following suit at the same pace.

"Why isn't there more of a relationship?" Ferguson asks. "The fact is that it's very difficult to hide fatality data, but you can play games with rates."

While Ferguson isn't suggesting that dishonest rate reporting is a widespread problem, he acknowledges the possibility. "Someone has to at least think about that as a possible option," he says. After all, Ferguson explains, companies are under pressure to get their injury rates down--and keep them down.

Jeff Shockey, corporate safety director for Alcoa, points out the risks associated with relying too heavily on a successful safety past. "It's easy to sit back and feel good about total recordable rates, or OSHA compliance, or having passed the last ISO audit, and be lulled into a sense of overconfidence," he says. "But fatalities are a different animal. They don't care if you have the lowest total recordable rate."

To prevent fatalities, Manuele thinks safety professionals must be willing to change the way they look at incident prevention. "They have to change the philosophy that says what we have in place is adequate," he says. He also debunks the myth that worker causes are the principle contributors to fatal incidents. In reality, he believes "the system is the problem, not the worker."

What exactly is wrong with the system? According to these experts, economic and investment pressures, turnover, leadership, global competition and downsizing play big roles in the likelihood of workplace fatalities. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Facing the Unthinkable: Fatality Prevention in the Workplace: How Workplace Culture, Organizational Systems and Leadership Affect the Risk of Fatalities, and What Safety Professionals Can Do to Prevent Deaths
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.