The Truth About Accident Prevention
Accident prevention is at the core of every effective workplace safety plan. That’s because when you prevent accidents, you also prevent injuries and illness, pain and suffering, high costs, low morale, and sagging productivity.
Common sense tells us that there are two basic approaches to preventing accidents:
- Controlling the work environment
- Managing the attitude and behavior of employees
A successful safety plan combines both. It also recognizes two essential truths about workplace accidents:
- Accidents are frequently preceded by related incidents and near misses, and thus are often both predictable and preventable.
- Causes of accidents can be identified through observation, analysis, and investigation.
An effective plan also defines terms clearly. For example:
- Accident. The National Safety Council defines an “accident” as an undesired event that results in personal injury or property damage.
- Incident. An “incident” is an unplanned, undesired event that adversely affects completion of a task.
- Near miss. A “near miss” is an incident in which no property was damaged and no personal injury sustained, but given a slight shift in time or position, damage and/or injury could easily have occurred.
These are just a few of the activities or conditions that can lead to accidents:
- Defective equipment
- Lack of PPE
- Hazardous chemicals
- Hazardous working conditions (e.g., inadequate lighting, extreme cold or heat)
- Unsafe acts
- Substance abuse
- Inadequate training in job skills and/or safety procedures
- Lack of safety policies and rules or failure to adequately communicate policies and rules
- Rushing, taking shortcuts (either production-driven demands or impulsive risk-taking behavior, or a combination of both)
Planning for Prevention
Safety plans should incorporate the company policy on the subject of accident prevention and investigation. Some companies, for example, have adopted a zero injury tolerance policy, while others believe that this approach drives reporting underground or creates an unfair accountability structure for employees who find some situations beyond their control.
Whatever your company’s policy is, the following points should be covered in the policy statement:
- Statement of the company’s commitment to safety
- Establishment of a safety committee and an explanation of how members were selected, what their responsibilities are, and what authority they have
- Outline of supervisors’ responsibilities (for example, duties might include conducting safety and housekeeping inspections, filling out accident report forms, disciplining employees who disobey safety rules, orienting new workers about safety issues, and ensuring that PPE is worn)
- List of employees’ responsibilities that might include noting hazards and reporting them to their supervisors, offering suggestions for improving safety procedures, and adhering to all company safety rules
- Plan for accident investigation and reporting procedures
- Procedures for correcting hazards and handling injuries and emergencies
- Description of safety training and education programs for both employees and supervisors
- Reference to your internal safety inspections policy or a copy of the inspection checklist
- Description of job safety analysis measures designed to identify and eliminate problem areas
- Statement about PPE
- Warning concerning work rules, disciplinary actions, or a recap of the penalties for safety violations
- Statement of your physical examination policy
- Reference to workers’ compensation benefits and required documentation
- List of the first-aid station locations and use procedures