Shameless plug time: This is a topic I harped on for pages in my book. If you like these posts (or even if you don’t but you’re willing to consider a different opinion), I think you’ll enjoy it. A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit is available at Amazon (affiliate link), Barnes & Noble, CRC Press, and tons of other obscure websites I’ve never heard of (don’t get a virus).
My son is a master the False Dilemma
“Dad, can I play on my tablet before dinner?”
“No, you need to finish your homework.”
“So you’re saying I can’t watch TV before bed?” He responds.
I imagine part of his questioning is a clever ploy to get me to commit to the latter activity. But on the surface, at least, those two topics have nothing do do with one another. One certainly doesn’t guarantee the other. He might also know that his homework will take much longer than he told me it would, but I digress. Here’s another good one.
“AJ, you need to clean your room before you go to your friend’s house.”
“What?” he asks somewhat hysterically. “You mean we’re not getting ice cream tonight?”
Safety arguments are often the same
The argument that I’m alluding to, of course, is that safety performance can be measured by rates. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.
As you can tell, I’ve kicked this dead horse several times, but it keeps resurrecting itself like an undead zombie pony. Ponies are evil. This one needs to be dispatched for good. Not just because it’s wrong, but because it’s harmful. Harmful you ask? Yes, for two reasons:
- You (and to a greater degree, your employees) cannot control your rates once an injury occurs- unless you’re willing to delve unethically into case management
- Why do we insist on measuring what we can’t control?
- You miss the opportunity to learn from what is happening when you’re focused on what already happened.
Pick up the pieces and move on
Too often we get caught up in creating “corrective actions” based on events in order to prevent something from ever happening again. While that is often a prudent measure, it’s easy to get over zealous in that activity. No one can guarantee that something will never happen again. There are too many variables. Going overboard can lead to sitting around waiting for the next bad thing to happen before you do something. That’s equivalent to playing whack-a-mole blindfolded.
When something happens correct what’s reasonable, but then go and seek out the things in your environment that are going to fail. Fix them before they do. In the absence of action that actively eliminates hazards before they harm, we’re just begging for chaos.