Special Topics in Safety Management

Zero Accidents: 10 Steps in the Right Direction


Every safety professional’s ultimate goal is zero accidents. Here are 10 steps that can help you achieve this critical objective.

Arriving at zero accidents isn’t easy, but these 10 steps will take you a good part of the way there:

1.    Make sure everyone is committed to safety. Everyone in your organization, from top management to the newest employee, must be committed to safety as the number one priority.

2.    Set clear standards for workplace safety performance. Make sure that employees understand the rules and that supervisors enforce them.

3.    Take the lead. Explain to supervisors and managers the importance of setting a good example and following all safety rules themselves—for example, wearing proper PPE and taking the same precautions as workers. Furthermore, supervisors should lead the effort in hunting down hazards and correcting them.

4.    Get employees involved. For example, give workers responsibility for planning and conducting inspections, for analyzing their own data on work hazards, and for designing safety checklists.

5.    Promote understanding. Emphasize that hazards put employees’ personal health and safety at risk. Understanding the “why” of safety is a strong motivator.

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6.    Train for competence and safety. Train employees well and frequently. Make sure they have the information and develop the skills they need to prevent accidents.

7.    Encourage feedback. Welcome input from employees. Praise workers who identify and correct hazards, or who report problems they can’t fix.

8.    Look for teachable moments. When hazards are identified, do more than just correct them. Use them as learning experiences to help workers become more alert and more sensitive to potential danger on the job.

9.    Move swiftly to correct safety problems. Make sure you respond promptly to identified hazards and take immediate steps to correct them.

10.  View accident prevention as an ongoing challenge. It’s something you, supervisors, and employees have to focus on every day, always improving, always setting new safety objectives, and always making steady progress toward achieving them.

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Take Up the Challenge

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were nearly 4 million nonfatal workplace injuries in 2008, which is the most recent year for which accident data is available. Of those injuries, just over 1 million involved lost workdays. That same year over 5,000 employees died in work-related accidents.

Looking at those statistics another way, there were, on average, over 10,000 injuries a day in U.S. workplaces and 14 deaths per day. If you add in all the accidents in which no one was injured and the near misses that could have been accidents, the numbers are astounding—and disturbing.

So many accidents every day. So much work still to do to get those numbers down to zero.

Maybe you’ve already achieved zero accidents. Even so, you can’t rest on your laurels. Accident prevention requires purposeful, continuous action on your part every day. And it requires the help and vigilance of supervisors and employees every moment of every day. But, of course, it’s worth all the effort if even one serious injury is prevented.

Tomorrow, we get into the closely related topic of accident investigations.

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