Many organizations, especially those in with a significant amount of high severity hazards (e.g., chemical, metal forming, mining, emergency response), have experienced a phenomenon that doesn’t seem to make sense; their incident rate has decreased while fatalities have not. One of the main reasons for this is a “blind spot” in their approach to risk management. This blind spot typically occurs from a combination of the following factors:
- A reliance on incident rates (e.g., in the US the OSHA Recordable or Total Recordable Rate) as a prime measure of Health & Safety Risk – low rates are equated to low risk (most incidents do not involve fatality hazards)
- Non-existent or ineffective management systems
- Poor predicative processes (e.g., risk assessment, perception surveys, employee engagement/involvement, near miss reporting, audits, management system self-assessments)
- Ineffective control systems (e.g., using low order controls for high hazards) and poor control validation
- Failing to treat high risk with the same respect as a fatality
One of the foundational principles of fatality management in high hazard industries is that, if you don’t understand and adequately respect your fatality risk, you will ultimately get that respect from fatalities. You will never prevent fatalities by measuring and responding to fatalities.
Our fatality prevention approach starts by enlightening the senior leadership of the organization. They must understand why they are having difficulty controlling fatalities and what approach is required to change the path of the organization. Accepting that the root of an organization’s fatality situation is always bigger than safety and that the leadership responsibility for organizational change is in their hands, is imperative.
Through this process, the organizations that we have worked with have not only eliminated fatality hazards they have improved the operational well-being of the organization. Changes such as improved supply chain communication, increased throughput, improved customer satisfaction, improved process design, increased efficiency (e.g., spending less time doing it a better way) and improved cross functional communication.
Helping Organizations Understand Their Fatality Potential
The following diagram depicts the relationship of fatalities and fatality/safety controls to the inherent organizational and operational factors:
Our approach to fatality prevention creates a systematic approach that will not only prevent fatalities, it will enhance the operability of the organization and the operations. These are the primary elements of our process that must be sustained by the organization:
- Obtaining senior management buy-in and leadership of a new fatality management approach
- Conducting fatality assessments at select plants and reviewing the enterprise-wide safety management approach – presenting findings and recommendations to senior management
- Showing company management that there are operational advantages to fatality hazard and risk reduction – because the roots of these issues are many times operational shortcomings
- Training Health & Safety staff to identify and evaluate fatality situations and uncover the site’s fatality risk knowledge/history
- Collecting baseline fatality data from all locations
- Evaluating common organizational and operational factors impacting present Health & Safety system effectiveness
- Creation of robust fatality risk decision-making and control systems
- Development and deployment of a Fatality Prevention Audit process and a fatality risk score
- Creation of predictive fatality risk indicators/metrics