The Craziness of Injury Goals
I used to work for a company that would budget to have a certain number of lost time injuries and fatalities each year. That may seem unconscionable today but it was not because they wanted or liked to hurt people or didn’t care about them, it was for the Boardroom and just the honest reality – they actually put a lot of effort into trying to reduce these numbers, the right way!. How are numerical targets meaningful anyway? Would our strategies for improving safety be any different if our target is 0, 1, 2, 5 or 10? At the end of the day, I struggle with the negativity, morality and ethics of setting injury targets and goals, zero or otherwise, as if we were omnipotent and omniscient – thinking that we have such control is a distracting delusion (see We are in control and other such delusions). Not wanting people to get injured is a given at home, at work and in our society. What does assigning a numerical value actually say about how much we truly care or appreciate that these are real people, not just statistics? What does the semiotics of this do to people? (see Measuring does things to people)
An absence of ZERO goals does NOT mean that you condone injury, it recognises that zero goals are harmful and counterproductive and that there are more positive and useful goals and indicators. Nor does achieving ZERO mean that a workplace is safe. We need to move away from injuries (or lack of them) as the primary way in which to measure safety. We need to recognize that until we deal with safety in terms of RISK we will always be running around in circles and putting out spot fires. If we just measure injuries and focus on mechanistic prevention and control then we will remain bewildered as to why our statistics go up and down but invariably regress to the mean over time. Reducing the number of injuries can only come by MAKING SENSE OF RISK (not trying to eliminate it). This is about much more than just safety – have a browse around this blog and you will see what I mean!. Perhaps START HERE
This cartoon was just posted on Alan Quilley’s safetyresultsblog. Alan says: “Stop Measuring Injuries As If It Was Meaningful in Measuring SAFETY – You’re Measuring Injuries!” Alan has written another great article about this. see The Problem With ZERO Goals and Results.
A classic quote from this article: “Stating things that are impossible and illogical makes you sound like a beauty queen contestant that will eradicate world hunger if she gets the chance.”