(Analysis from the National Safety Council Congress and Expo in San Diego) One thing is clear after attending three days of sessions at this year’s National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expo: Injury rates are no longer considered the best measure of a company’s safety program by many safety pros.
There was a time, not long ago at all, when many case studies presented at safety conferences would end with, “and the company’s injury rate decreased significantly.”
No one is disputing that fewer injuries is a good thing.
But it’s been clear, since David Michaels was nominated to be the head of OSHA, that he didn’t have much confidence at all in injury rates calculated by the government.
In fact, Michaels made one of his most emphatic statements to date at the conference regarding injury rates: “I don’t believe our injury rates at all.”
Michaels didn’t start making these statements when he was nominated to take the OSHA job. He’s been saying this, as a safety professional, for years.
But now, it’s not just Michaels making this statement. At the conference, speaker after speaker managed to work into presentations that counting injuries is no longer the way to go.
Michaels has suggested that safety incentive programs that promise monetary bonuses, steak dinners or other prizes for zero injuries causes employees, through peer pressure, not to report injuries.
Safety expert Scott Geller of Safety Performance Solutions offered another theory at this year’s conference: “Zero injury” programs can stifle workers from talking about their injuries.
Solutions to problems in business evolve over time, and safety is no exception. Often, yesterday’s solution gets relabeled as tomorrow’s problem.
This idea that injury rates aren’t a good way to measure safety seems to have taken hold with many of the consultants, trainers and other expert attendees seen at safety conferences.
So, what replaces injury counts as the measure of a good workplace safety program? Michaels said once again at the conference that OSHA’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program (i2p2) proposal is the most important part of the agency’s current agenda.
The new standard will be for companies to identify their own hazards, produce plans to mitigate them and then put those plans into action.
And before someone says, “But counting injuries does mean something,” many of the above safety experts would agree. There’s no doubt that when a facility starts racking up injury after injury, not to mention fatalities, it means something.
But the business of safety has evolved once again. And the process isn’t over yet.
What do you consider a good measure of safety success? Let us now in the Comments Box below.