By Chad Engle, Loss Prevention and Safety Specialist
I was recently given a new book titled “Rethinking Hand Safety, Myths, Truths, and Proven Practices,” authored by Joe Geng. Mr. Geng grew up in the glove manufacturing business. He knows a thing or two about gloves and hand safety. I am not much of a book reader, guilt was what motivated me to crack this book open as Mr. Geng’s company, Superior Glove, sent it to me along with a glove sample to try. It seemed it would have been rude and wasteful to not see what Mr. Geng had to say about hand safety.
There was plenty of information about gloves, but what surprised me was all the talk of cultural safety (or the lack thereof) and how it leads to injuries. Mr. Geng uses the term fatalism. I had not seen this term used in the safety realm before reading this book. He uses the term fatalistic to describe poor employers where the culture is such that they feel some injuries are just inevitable. They are an unavoidable cost of doing business.
Here at NIRMA I have seen evidence of this culture at times. You know the culture exists when you hear the statement, “Isn’t that what we have insurance for?” Yes, but insurance exists to reduce the financial impact of accidents, injuries and property damage. Insurance should never be used to justify an organization’s lack of a loss prevention and safety program. Mr. Geng says that fatalism is probably the leading indicator of a bad company and I would agree wholeheartedly.
Fatalism tends to creep in when committees review quarterly incident reports. I see the term “unavoidable” or “unpreventable” quite a bit. In some cases, it is not a reflection of the overall culture, but simply an easy out when it is difficult to come up with a way to reduce the risk of an incident reoccurring. The minute we say an injury cannot be prevented we have given up, whether it is at the employee level or the management level. If a county or agency employee feels that any type of injury is unavoidable it is a sign of an overall problem with the safety culture.
The purpose of a safety program is to reduce the risk of injuries and accidents, if we fall into a fatalistic mindset, we will cease to be effective. A good employer should reject fatalism by working toward zero injuries because they believe it is possible and that any level of injuries is unacceptable. Please do not tell me that zero injuries are impossible, there are companies with 10 times more employees than all NIRMA members combined that have been striving for zero injuries for years and years.
My research on zero injuries led to an article by Bill Sims Jr. that proposes the best way to work toward zero injuries is to focus on zero unsafe behaviors and conditions. Injuries are a lagging indicator while behaviors and conditions are leading indicators. Start a culture that does not allow unsafe behaviors and conditions and a decrease in injuries and accidents will follow.
If you would like assistance reducing unsafe behaviors and conditions, please contact me at 1.800.642.6671 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Take care!