Three, Two, One, Zero!
Countdown to a Zero Injury Workplace
By Carl Potter, CSP, CMC and Deb Potter, PhD
Can companies really attain zero injuries in the
workplace? Many executives, managers, supervisors, and workers think
Imagine for a moment that one of your children has
secured his or her first job with a company in your industry. Your
child calls you after the first day at work and says, “At the
orientation today, they said there is a likelihood that I will either
be injured or die on the job while working for this company.”
What would your reaction be? If you’re like most
parents, you’d tell your child not
to work for that company. After all, who would want any family member
to work in a company where the assumption was that people will be
injured or even killed?
When you say, “Zero injuries are not possible in
our workplace,” you tell employees that they are likely to be hurt
or die at work, just like the previous scenario. The solution? To
attain zero injuries in the workplace, you must have a goal of zero
injuries. Even more than that, you must believe
zero injuries is possible and have that belief become the entire
company’s philosophy. The solution may seem simple, but it works.
Current State of Workplace Safety:
There is an increasingly demanding and complex business environment.
Managers and employees must make tough choices daily when it comes to
production, quality, safety and health. We often feel like we’re
being barraged with regulations and rules. In the midst of all this,
despite our best efforts, workers are getting injured and dying on the
According to OSHA, more than 5,700 workers died as a
result of workplace injury and illness in 2004. According to the Bureau of
Labor Statistics, 4.4 million workers were injured or became ill in
2003. Consequently, companies spend more $50 billion a year on
injuries and illnesses, making the United States less
competitive in the world market.
With all this money going towards safety-related
issues, why are workers still becoming injured, ill or dying on the
job? Many organizations do not have an over-arching
safety philosophy. The demands of competition, globalization,
mergers and acquisitions often take priority in the minds of managers
and executives, leaving safety issues to rest on the back burner.
Many executives, managers and supervisors do not have
a safety philosophy because they don’t understand the concepts of
safety and health management. Nor do they understand how to approach safety in the context of the
work that they manage or supervise. While many of these leaders are
highly educated in management and leadership concepts, most of them
have had little training in integrating health and safety management
principles into their everyday work.
Managers and executives can create sustainable,
positive change when it comes to safety and
health. They do this when they develop a philosophy that promotes
safety and health and de-emphasizes the current focus on compliance.
The philosophy must give equal weight to five areas:
management commitment, employee involvement, worksite analysis,
hazard prevention and control, and health and safety training.
Too often, organizations focus on only one or two of
these areas. This is a great disservice to the employees because the
lack of balance and absence of an overall philosophy causes chaos and
faulty behaviors that directly or indirectly lead to employee injury
Higher Safety Standards and
Adopting high safety standards is easier than you may think. In fact,
all it takes is four simple steps:
Understand the five areas that must be covered by the standard:
commitment – Provision of outstanding protection to employees
through effective systems and personal actions by executives,
managers, and supervisors.
involvement – Employee interest and involvement in the safety
and health processes at work including participation in audits,
accident and incident investigations, suggestion programs, and
analysis – A systematic approach to assessing and managing
prevention and control – A commitment to workplace health and
safety through preventative equipment maintenance, workplace
health processes, hazard tracking methods and emergency
and health training – Ensures workers know how to perform all
aspects of their job to prevent work-related injury or illness.
a safety philosophy in the organization. Ask yourself:
does my organization really believe about worker safety and
the executives, managers and supervisors understand their moral
and legal obligations about safety and health?
we really believe the company can have zero injuries?
answers to these questions will tell you what your company’s safety
philosophy is. Realize that you may have to work to educate leaders
and get their thinking aligned with the importance of creating a
workplace where safety and worker health are paramount concerns, but
the effort is worth it.
the current state of the company’s health and safety management
program. After analysis of where your company is, develop a vision of where the
company should be.
the gap between the current state and the future state of health and
safety for your organization. Only then can you begin to take
purposeful actions to fill the gaps and create an environment where
everyone can go home every day without injury.
A Safer, More Profitable
Having a zero injury workplace is possible. If you can lead your team
to go one hour without an injury, then you can lead them through hours
that turn into days, weeks, months and years. Remember, the greatest
legacy leaders can leave is that they ran a profitable business where
everyone got to go home every day without injury.
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and Deb Potter.
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