Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a fellow safety “professional” (it’s in quotes because the guy is an absolute turd). I had made the audacious claim that recordable injuries are a terrible measure of safety performance. It’s a conclusion that I did not reach lightly and I tried to explain my logic to him. Most importantly the fact that OSHA outright says it’s not. This guy wouldn’t have it though.
Not only did he inform me that I would never find a company that didn’t measure safety performance based on recordable rates, but also that it was my job to manage those rates in order to keep them low. He went as far as to say that I should tell an employee when they weren’t “really” hurt. To which I replied:
“I’m not a doctor, dude. Neither are you.”
I have to admit, I once thought a lot like my dimwitted colleague. At one time I prided myself in my ability to “manage” injuries on a site. My pride wasn’t without merit, either. Depending on the project, my track record for avoiding an OSHA recordable injury was often near 75%. I knew 29 CFR 1904 inside and out. Every question, every nuance, every interpretation letter, all of it. If an injury occurred and any treatment was given I would agonize over it to make sure I “made the right call” before placing it on my 300 log. Then one day I went to work for one of those mythical companies that don’t use rates as a performance measure.
We certainly could have talked about them, because ours was always low. Sometimes it was even non-existent. But we chose to talk about important things instead. Things like planning our work or helping people figure out why they should work safely. In fact, we didn’t even talk about injuries unless there was a good lesson to be learned that would translate across the company. We talked about the actions taken to prevent injuries.
I’m going to keep this post fairly short because I cover this ad nausem in my book (still coming soon) and I don’t want to give too much away. But I do want to leave you with a thought. Aside from how ridiculous the criteria is, if your company is one that still uses rates to gauge safety performance, how much time do you invest in “case management.” If your answer to that question is anything more than “none,” consider the implications. Who does that case management serve? The employee? Maybe. I’d say a safer bet is that it only serves the employer and their bottom line.
Maybe our time would be better spent investing in things that help prevent injuries instead of trying to play doctor after they happen. Maybe.
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