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Safety for the Linear Thinker and the Frequently Injured

I am consistently asked, “Is it really possible to hit zero injuries?”  This can start a storm of opinions as evidenced on an online safety forum.  About a month ago I was conducting one of my ever-popular Facilitated Safety Discussions where I start with a blank white board and facilitate a safety discussion with supervisors and managers.  As usual, a guy in the room challenged the possibility of hitting zero injuries in the workplace.  He said, “I have never seen it (zero injuries) happen.”  At which point I told him that it happens every day.  This didn’t help because he was using a different formula.  To understand how to hit zero injuries in the workplace we must first think linearly and leave variables out of the equation.

P(A|B) is a conditional probability function in math that shows us there is a Probability (P) of Event A given Event B occurred.  Using this formula we could say that, if an employee does not identify a hazard in their workplace and it goes unmitigated (B), then there is a higher probability an injury (A) will occur.  So it makes sense that we need to reduce the hazards that increase the risk of probability of the event.  I am not a mathematician but this works for me and that is as deep as I am going to go into probability (because it is exhausting).

Simply put, if you want to reduce the possibility of injuries and your probability of hitting zero injuries you have to reduce Event B.  It also stands to reason that we must add another value (time) to reduce the variables.  So during the discussion previously mentioned I explained to the guy who never saw zero injuries that it happens each day in the workplace.  People do go home uninjured, and some do not.  When we look at employees who do get injured more than others we can see an increase in Event B (not recognizing the hazard and mitigating risk).  There is a certain variable called “luck,” but as the old saying goes, “The harder I work at something, the luckier I am.”

Many times my clients hire me to come in and talk to their frequently injured employees.  In my discussions with them, it is easy to see that they are like the guy in my recent safety discussion – they just don’t want to believe working with zero injuries is possible.  They tend to blame their injury on something other than their lack of being diligent about reducing the risk posed by a hazard.  It is simple, a hazard is something that can hurt you.  In my research I have determined that there are four categories that can be used to place hazards.  These are taught and discussed at length in my Hazard Recognition and Control Workshop:

  1. Employees
  2. Equipment
  3. Environment
  4. Energy

There are other safety researchers, writers, consultants, and teachers who use eight to twelve categories and I am okay with that, but I want to keep it simple.  Zero injuries are possible when employees, supervisors, managers, and executives understand that to increase the possibility of sending everyone home the same way they came to work, hazard recognition and control is key.  For an organization to increase the probability of hitting the target of zero injuries more than not, personnel must understand the importance of risk mitigation activity and how to do it.  Otherwise the variables continue to increase during over a period of time.

I would like to help you increase the probability of hitting zero in your workplace…

If you would like to see how the Safety Institute can help train your personnel to understand the importance and the how-to of hazard recognition and control, consider scheduling a customized workshop at your location.

You can visit and learn about the workshop and read the responses from past participants.  You can also click on the link to Open Enrollment Opportunities on the page to see if there is a workshop near you.

Be Safe!

Carl Potter, CSP


2 Responses to Safety for the Linear Thinker and the Frequently Injured

  • Gayleen Lowe says:

    To equate the 4 e’s to a very simple idea, imagine the “employee” as you, the “equipment” as your car, the “environment” as a winter day with icy roads, and the “energy” as speed.

    it’s very easy to see the recipe for disaster here unless all hazards are mitigated. in this case, the decision to get on the road at all is a very important one. and where does that decision rest? With the “employee” or the “employer”?

    some things to mull over for those who are frequently injured (or “accident prone”) ……

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