What Does Counting Injuries as a Measure of Our Safety Process do to Our Risk Communication?
In Part 1, I outlined why I think counting injuries as some measure of safety is not only illogical, it does a great deal of damage. Leading the people you work with to think that as long as they don’t get hurt it must be OK. Imagine the trades person who just finished a job and took terrible risks (perhaps not locking out) and then his/her boss tells then they have done a GREAT JOB. At the end of the month we add insult to injury by celebrating an “injury free” month and hand out safety trinkets and repeatedly tell everyone (including your clients) “we had another SAFE month…keep up the good work!”
So let’s stop this madness and actually measure SAFETY. I propose that safety is doing what we need to do without taking unnecessary risks. We look at a job that is to be done and we evaluate the risks we face. We come up with a way to do the job that is the most safely productive way to do it without taking unreasonable and unnecessary risks. In the example above, working with electricity without locking out is terribly risky. It’s unnecessary to work without the protection of locking out the energy (at least in most cases except for highly trained and protected trades people who work with live electrical lines). So the challenge becomes deciding what needs to be done to manage the identified risk and taking those steps each and every time we’re going to do that job. If there are roadblocks to the chosen safe behaviours then we need to jointly devise ways to ensure the safe way becomes the natural way to do the job. Now we have some real things to measure that are creating safe production. Counting, measuring the creation of safety through our defined activities give us some real evidence-based data to work with. Now when we congratulate the people we work with on a good job…we can actually mean it!
So using the example above we can certainly measure if lock out processes are in place, we can also measure if the hardware is available. Then we can start to measure the compliance level and effectiveness of the process. Now when we see positive actions and evidence we truly have something to celebrate. If we find short comings we have something positive to work on and celebrate when we’ve accomplished our goals of creating safety. We’ll know without a doubt that we created the situation of ensuring we’ve locked out. Best of all we did it with our employees!
So there you have it Just some practical thoughts on what we can do to create and measure safety…give it a try. It’s a lot better than counting what didn’t happen and assuming we created the non-event. See how silly that sounds?