While overall workplace injuries have been falling in the last decade, the numbers of deadly and catastrophic injuries are actually on the rise.
A new report recommends that employers focus their injury prevention efforts on reviewing accidents that could have resulted in serious injury or death, as well as on near misses, where a potentially serious accident was narrowly avoided.
The "Serious Injury and Fatality Prevention: Perspectives and Practices" report, by the Campbell Institute, recommends that employers focus on their internal processes that could lead to serious injuries and fatalities, rather than on human error itself.
They should focus on identifying and fixing holes in their safety management system, examine their workplace culture, and change or modify work processes so as to eliminate the chances of human error affecting safety.
The report recommends that organizations don't put the blame on the injured worker, but instead take a look at internal factors that contributed to an accident. To identify events or near events that could have led to serious injury or death, the prevention model in the report recommends focusing on and studying:
By identifying potential precursors to such events and educating employees about those precursors, companies can focus on eliminating the potential for accidents to occur in the first place. One key component of this method is to identify which smaller accidents or near misses had the most potential to inflict serious injury or death.
Establish a system for reporting near misses. Consider:
When rolling out the plan, hold a safety meeting explaining to employees why the company is focusing on the smaller incidents and near misses, and how a minor incident can turn major. Explain the importance of looking at potential rather than actual outcomes for minor incidents.