Zero Unsafe Acts or Zero Accidents?

Zero Unsafe Acts or Zero Accidents?

unsafe actsThere is currently a LinkedIn group discussion (HERE) raging in response to the question:

“What are your thoughts about the whole ” Zero Accidents” concept? I do not buy into it and it would be great to learn other people’s thoughts”

You can imagine the responses, like:

  • “If you don’t buy into the concept, you should not be in safety”
  • “if we say Goal 25 – people would not be acting safe as they know there is a tolerable area for incidents”
  • “if we take on goal zero they know there is no acceptable room for neglect”

but a few comments from Alan Quilley really made sense. I have been blocked from commenting but I wanted to share Alan’s comments before the same happens to him:

The question is why make safety different than all the other company goals (Profit for shareholders, customer service)? Almost all other goals are based on accomplishing things. Why do some insist on making it the absence of a negative, which BTW doesn’t demonstrate SAFETY just the lack of injury as a measure of success. It really is silly to assume that no injury is really the goal. Should we all take “good ducking” class…the thing can fall but we can jump out of the way just in time!


Yeah silly huh Dave…not very inspiring! “Let’s just sit here and no one will get hurt!” Humans need to do what we do in the most efficient and effective manner we can…that just so happens to be the way you reach excellence in all things. We cannot be perfect (not available to us) so concepts like Zero are fantasy. Making Zero anything a goal is even worse. Nothing like frustrating your company with perfection goals!
“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” Harriet Braiker
“Let’s manage safety recognizing how humans are and stop managing safety the way we wish humans were.” – Feel free to quote me! :O)


When I plan a trip I’m not planning to “not be where I am currently.” I plan to do something, to accomplish something. Let’s set safety goals that are actually SAFETY goals and we can measure their existence. The absence of injury can happen just by luck. Hard to accidently create safety is we do it with purpose.
Stop preventing and start creating. It’s much more fun and you will (over time) build confidence that you and your team actually made it happen through your efforts


The goal that is in keeping with business goals is to create goods and services in a efficient and effective manner (safely if you like)….it’s not efficient nor effective to do things in a way where they have to be redone because they were neither efficient nor effective (incidents and “harm” are hardly in keeping with the goal). It’s not that complex to leave “absence of a negative” thinking behind. Being stuck in classic thinking about safety and being centred on “prevention” is why some companies struggle with knowing what to do.


Mark, Aubrey Daniels explains it this way(see link below) …Zero can be just luck…you may not have created it. Like sports you can have a lot of errors and still win. You can be happy about the win but don’t be too proud of it. Like Zero – it could be just luck. You need to have positive goals and measures ( what you do)…not measuring what doesn’t happen to you. Unsafe does NOT always mean you’re going to get hurt. So measuring “hurt” is a very poor measure logically. Think of all the times you have personally have been unsafe (we all have) and how many times you didn’t pay the price. Measuring injuries would tell you that you had been safe…when you obviously were not.
Hope that helps.

Aubrey Daniels: Rewarding things a dead man can do:



Luck is really all we’re measuring when counting injuries…hindsight… and the luck of where the energy hit our person. Don’t get me wrong…I’ll take all the luck I can get. :O) I just don’t want to be too proud of an outcome I had very little to do with. Making safety happen (that’s a whole other thread) is much different than preventing something. Standing in one spot can prevent all injury…but the ditch didn’t get dug. Digging the ditch in an effective, efficient and safe manner takes a lot of clever effort. Something we as humans can be proud of WHILE were doing it. We don’t have to wait for the monthly injury stats produced by some person in an office somewhere. :O)

Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below