Safety Culture Excellence®

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Injuries Aren’t the Only Kind of Accidents

December 4th, 2013

When you think about the title of this piece, the first thing that comes to most people’s minds is an accident that produced property damage but no injuries.  While that is a common example of this principle, it is not the only one.  Virtually any undesired, unplanned, unexpected result of a work process is accidental.  It could be argued that anything that did not turn out as planned is an accident.  

When you think about it this way, people invest in the wrong stocks, elect the wrong people to office, and marry the wrong spouses from time to time.  We don’t blame such accidents exclusively on the stock market, the government, or dating services.  Likewise when an organization has a rash of injuries, it might not be exclusively the fault of the safety programs and specialists.

The real key to understanding and applying this principle is simply that good management must anticipate the multiple ways that processes can produce unwanted results and prevent them from doing so.  When you think this way, safety is not a touchy, feely specialty to be delegated.  It is a principle of good management.  

Managers must constantly be on guard against the ways in which their processes can fail or go awry.  Such events can be caused by people, machines, conditions, process flaws or combinations of these.  Designing and constantly improving all the aspects of business processes is the job of leaders, managers and supervisors.  Blaming workers or delegating problem areas seldom creates organizational excellence.  It is crucial to remember that when the goose quits laying golden eggs, you need better goose management: not an egg specialists.  

-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.

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