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Safety Leadership: Applying Behavior-Based Safety to Serious and Fatal Injury Prevention

Safety Leadership: Applying behavior-based safety to serious and fatal injury prevention

21 Feb 2015 Safety

Sometimes the best tool for a complex problem can be right in front of us. But does that principle apply in the case of something as complex and urgent as a serious injury or fatality (SIF)? For years, organizations have sought to understand the growing gap between incident rates that have steadily declined across industry and fatality rates that have not. The answers have challenged the conventional wisdom on accident causation.

For instance, research shows that the discrepancy between fatal and less-severe injury outcomes is due in part to leaders and safety practitioners treating all incidents the same, when in reality roughly 20 percent of incidents have the potential to be an SIF. As a result, many organizations are now paying increased attention to the potential severity of their incidents, first aids and near misses.

Given our new understanding, what practical steps can leaders take to reduce their exposure to potential SIF incidents?

Adapting a proven system
A mature and high-functioning behavior-based safety process has proven to be an effective tool for reducing overall incidents in many organizations. However, a typical BBS observation does not probe deep enough to discover and document SIF exposures. Can this process be modified and leveraged to identify the precursors, pre-conditions and exposures that lead to SIF incidents before they occur?

To answer this question, my colleagues recently undertook a study of 55 SIF and SIF-potential cases. They sought to determine if the precursors, pre-conditions and exposures that contributed to the occurrence of these incidents would be discoverable through discussions, interviews and/or observations. This examination was done by two safety experts and SIF experts working independently. Analysis of the results indicates the raters were in high agreement with each other and that 48 of the 55 cases (87 percent) could have been detected through an observation and interview process. (Read more)

Michael Mangan