If all you have in your toolbox is a hammer…then everything starts looking like a nail. Since humans work and play in a 360 degree world (with tools, equipment, machines and work/play processes and procedures) to focus on one factor and discount the others is not only illogical but very unfortunate. If you are in the safety business you need a full tool kit. If process safety is the “hammer”, then the “wrench” is a superior knowledge of human psychology. The “screwdriver” is an understanding of organizational behaviour and culture.
Heinrich’s original ideas lacked our current knowledge of process safety, engineering, human psychology and safety culture. It’s indeed foolish to ignore what we’ve learned over the past 80 years. To suggest that somehow one factor can be the “key” when in most cases it takes a human, tools/machinery/work process within a culture to do work is terribly uninformed.
Applying Heinrich’s “limited knowledge” based conclusions to today’s workplaces would be like using a 1930’s approach to doing your company’s payroll…wait that would be with a pencil and paper. Ask your accounting department if they want to apply 1930’s technology to their current problems…then DUCK.
So if you haven’t done so already, go to your computer and take your Powerpoint slides with Heinrich and Bird’s triangles and domino causation models and move them to the history section of your presentation.