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Injuries are OK…as Long as We Have Fewer Than Last Year

How many times have you heard, “Safety is our #1 concern.  Safety above all else.”?  I have heard it with every company I have been a part of.  The very first thing I ask when I hear this remark is, what is your safety goal for this year?  To date, I have NEVER had anyone say zero.  In every case, it is some percentage reduction of injuries from the previous year.

If safety is so important, why can’t the stated goal be zero accidents/injuries?  I always follow up my first question with a second question asking if any accident/injury is OK.  I always get a resounding no.  So why is management afraid to state a goal of zero accidents/injuries?

I know stating it is one thing and behaviors are another.  You can state zero accidents but never do anything about it.  But, if you are serious about safety and will do whatever it takes to make sure no one gets hurt, then state that no accidents are acceptable at all.  Set the goal to zero.

I have been apart of a couple of companies that took safety very seriously.  One company had every computer boot up and display the corporate safety metrics, goals, and recent accident reports.  No one could turn this off.  It was visual and created a lot of talk about safety each and every day.  The display showed the current Year-To-Date metrics for every facility.  The company backed up this talk by spending money on safety whenever it was needed.  I can’t even recall a Return-On-Investment study ever being completed.  Also, every meeting had to start with a safety tip.  It might be a work safety tip, ergonomic tip, or a safety tip for home.  Not matter what safety was suppose to start every meeting.

Another facility I worked for won one of the worldwide safety awards after three years of improving to a near zero accident facility.  The plant manager never even hesitated to spend the money if it was truly going to help safety.  Employees were self policing their areas for near misses.  Safety was very important.

Neither company could ever some out and state a goal of zero accidents.  They might state a goal of 2 accidents for the year.  Why not just go ahead and say zero?  What is the hang up with stating this goal?

Money wasn’t just thrown at safety issues in the cases I mentioned.  There was a lot done without spending a dime.  I bring the issue of spending money because I have seen companies ask for a ROI study or payback on things that will improve safety.  Sometimes the improvement is to prevent an accident or injury that might occur.  How do you justify that?

The point is NO injury is acceptable.  Lets have the respect for the people and say that.  Let the people know we do care about their safety.

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