Are you doing all you can to save lives?
Protecting people from serious injuries is directly related to how well an organization is able to reduce exposure to high-risk hazards. The better organizations can detect and mitigate vulnerability, the better they can save lives. The challenge is that exposures, like a live workplace, can change quickly – often in subtle and unrecognized ways. A more comprehensive approach to safety management requires that in addition to formal systems that sample for and track known exposures, organizations develop the capability to recognize and respond to signs of fatality risk. For over 30 years, our thought leadership and proven approach have led industry in this important field. Here are 5 ways you can start saving lives.
1. SIFs Have Unique Triggers
Serious injuries and fatalities (SIF) have causes that are often different from other types of injuries. To impact SIFs, organizations should target exposures that have the potential to result in a life-altering injury or death. In other words, risks like falling from height, working with hazardous power sources, and operating in enclosed space have a greater likelihood of severe injury if something were to go wrong than jobs that keep people at a desk or in the office. Funneling resources toward high-risk jobs, rather than spreading them equaling across all exposures, will ensure that we are taking the necessary steps to eliminate SIFs.
2. Track SIF Potential
SIFs are (thankfully) too infrequent to provide predictive data. Instead, track events and near-misses that could have caused a serious injury but (luckily) didn't. By monitoring what we call SIF potential, leaders will have sufficient data to target problem areas and implement action plans. Define potential and develop a classification approach to track it. Calibrate SIF and potential definitions, and evaluate incidents based on valid, reliable, and repeatable criteria.
3. Orient Your BBS System toward SIF Prevention
The factors that contribute to SIF exposures can be more complex than those of less-severe incidents, involving subtle breakdowns in safety management control systems. These deficiencies can be found in both the design integrity of the life-saving program as well as in the behavioral reliability required to implement the program. To close the gap, many organizations are expanding their employee-led observation process to target serious injuries and fatalities. A well-established behavior-based safety (BBS) process provides companies with a veteran team of observers whose keen safety knowledge is ready-made for this most important task.
4. Leverage the Hierarchy of Controls
The Hierarchy of Controls (HOC) offers one of the most promising ways to reduce exposure to SIF events. The HOC is a system designed to minimize exposure to hazards. Its structured framework progresses from lower-level, employee-focused controls (e.g., PPEs and administrative practices) to exposure-focused controls (including engineering safer worksites and redesigning systems) that minimize the role behaviors play in assuring safety. Start first with the things that can be done to eliminate exposures before employees step foot on the worksite. This helps remove risks without relying on the actions of individuals. Controls are more effective when they don't depend on perfect performance.
5. Accident Investigations Provide Critical Information
Only about 20% of lower severity incidents have SIF potential. Yet many organizations still conduct accident investigations as though every event could become serious and let actual outcome (rather than potential) dictate the level of attention. For example, a sprain caused by manual lifting (low SIF potential) will be given the same investigative attention as a sprain caused by avoiding a moving forklift (high SIF potential). The result is a "flattening" effect as organizations give all events equal time, rather than assure events with more serious potential get proportionately greater depth of investigation.
Fatality prevention requires something more than the typical safety focus. While all injuries are preventable and should be treated with urgency, serious injuries and fatalities are a special subset that requires unique solutions. Chiefly this is about building a culture that empowers employees to pause work, fosters collaboration between workers and leaders, builds individuals' fluency around exposures, and equips them to navigate risks safely.
To learn more about our point of view on Fatality Prevention, download suggested additional content featured here or contact us today for complimentary consultation with one of our solutions experts.