Safety Culture Excellence®

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Little Things: The Biggest Things in Safety

October 30th, 2013

It is logical to begin a safety effort by addressing the risks with the greatest probability for causing injuries and the highest severity potential.  However, it is imperative that when the greater risks are addressed that the next ones in line get the new focus.  If an organization ever develops the mindset that they have handled the big things and all that is left are little things, not worth the bother, this is a formula for disaster.  Many rude wake-up calls have come via a rash of accidents caused by these “little things.”

Accidents are, after all, ambushes.  If we saw them coming we would have avoided them.  So it logically follows that anything we don’t keep our eyes on has the potential of ambushing us.  Some experts suggest that workers get injured when they fail to recognize the risk.  But underestimating the risk is equally dangerous.  

Many have adopted a goal or vision of “zero injuries.”  If properly explained and implemented, such a goal can keep organizations continuously addressing smaller risks as they successfully eliminate or manage larger ones.  When accident rates go down, the effort does not stop; it simply refocuses itself on the next tier of risks.  True excellence in safety is quite different from simply pretty good.  No risk should ever be considered a “little thing.”

-Terry L. Mathis

Terry L. Mathis is the founder and CEO of ProAct Safety, an international safety and performance excellence firm. He is known for his dynamic presentations in the fields of behavioral and cultural safety, leadership, and operational performance, and is a regular speaker at ASSE, NSC, and numerous company and industry conferences. EHS Today listed Terry as a Safety Guru in ‘The 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS in 2010, 2011 and 2012-2013. He has been a frequent contributor to industry magazines for over 15 years and is the coauthor of STEPS to Safety Culture Excellence, 2013, WILEY.