ZERO Injuries – Making it Happen

ZERO Injuries – Making it Happen

Guest Post By John Wettstein


ZERO injuries – is it possible? The key is that in order to achieve something you must first believe it is possible to do. You have to focus on the ultimate outcome and allow your organization a way to achieve it. Remember that as soon as Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile people thought it was possible.

If safety goals are not set at ZERO, an employer sends a message to employees that severe and disabling injuries are acceptable. If you set the goal of merely having “the best” safety record of companies in your industry – which may mean (everyone knows privately) your company will tolerate some number of injuries per year.

There are many best practices to getting to ZERO. My top picks for making it happen would be; first-line leadership, demonstrated management commitment, a hazard management process and an observation program.

First-line supervisors are the key to any safe operation. Today, their roles have gone beyond traditional functions. Today they need to be a coach, a mentor, and a teacher to their team members. They have to promote safety to their team through the right direction, delegation and control.

Hazard Management is a proactive program were hazards are identified, evaluated for risk, and controls implemented at the worksite to eliminate or minimize the risk for loss.

An observation program answers the question; do we really know how well our safety programs work? Perhaps the single best insurance policy you might obtain to ensure that employees are doing what they are supposed to be doing is to perform worksite observations. As J. LaCarre says “A desk is a dangerous place to watch work from.”

Three essential points to employ while performing worksite observations are intervention, positive reinforcement and action. Intervention accomplishes several objectives. It stops at-risk behaviours before they lead to an incident, it replaces at-risk behavior with safe behaviour, and it helps employees make better choices about working safely. Positive reinforcement encourages employees to repeat behaviors that result in positive consequences. Action ensures keys to success through consistency and approaching employees with their best interests in mind.

All this will require a new safety culture. (Safety culture refers to an organization’s characteristics and attitudes – prompted by its leaders and internalized by its employees – that serve to make safety a value) The culture change will require defining and communicating the need for change, employee participation, assessment, feedback, training and implementation.

There are some people who believe it is not possible to have ZERO injuries. They may be right, it is not possible, but if it was possible how would we do it?

The Challenge: “ZERO Injuries” is the correct thing to do – Your Company’s quest for “ZERO Injuries” will make you safer than you would have been. You need to lengthen the time between injuries, continually striving for ZERO injuries. You have to set your sights on ZERO injuries.

John Wettstein, CRSP, is a safety consultant, workplace trainer and owner of


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