Part 1 – What Does Counting Injuries as a Measure of Our Safety Process do to Our Risk Communication?
By Alan Quilley and first published HERE
There’s a long tradition in thinking (by some) that measuring safety is best done by measuring the lack of injury. If you’ve read ANY of my books, articles, newsletters, tweets, Linkedin posts and/or my blog you’ll know that I believe this is illogical and a very poor measure of safety. Measuring injuries as proof of safety is illogical because lack of injury can happen by just being lucky. Very unsafe activities can result in no injuries at all.
What I haven’t talked about much is what this huge error in risk communication does to our workers. Let’s explore…
What are we really trying to say?
If we count and celebrate lack of injury, do our workers start to think that as long as they are not injured it must be what they want? Is the message to them “Take risks to get production, just don’t get caught by hurting yourself?” How about “It must be safe, last time I did it I didn’t get hurt!”
I’m confident that we do a great deal of damage to our workers risk perception by linking the lack of injury to their safety. Every one of us reading this can think of a time (in most cases, many times) when we’ve done something everyone on the planet would consider unsafe yet we didn’t get hurt.
So celebrating lack of injury statistics when your whole company knows that it was achieved (at least in part) by some level of luck is extremely damaging. It actually encourages behaviours that may not be in the best interest of your workers. In a similar fashion, hiring contractors with low injury rates may very well be celebrating and rewarding the best manipulators of safety statistics.
Let’s stop linking this poor measure of safety to our success and/or the rewarding of contracts. We will be successful when we are doing our tasks (work or play) in a reasonably risk managed way. Risk can never be zero but it can be logical based on what is available to us to reasonably control the harmful energies that may strike us. Risk management isn’t magic… it’s logical and hopefully a thoughtful use of our knowledge. Above all there needs to be a reasonable relationship between the risk and the amount of control achieved.
Measuring positive attributes of safe production is the real measure of working safely.
Next time we’ll discuss what we can count and measure that REALLY demonstrates what is important to us by counting the “creating of safety through our activities.” In Part 2 we’ll reveal that counting what we do is much better than counting what doesn’t happen to us! Stay tuned!