Usually when I ask a company what their target is for their Health and Safety measure of choice, I am quoted a figure greater than zero.
“So you are planning to have an accident? A death? Time lost at work? A pollution incident or perhaps just a few fires?” is my immediate question.
This does normally make people pause and think!
We can’t justify setting an acceptable level for harm to people, equipment or the environment – unless it’s zero.
Put the boot on the other foot. Do you go to work in the morning and expect to come home with all your fingers and toes? Of course you do.
So how do we achieve this?
Over the last 4 decades I have been exposed to various H&S approaches.
In the 80’s the emphasis was on completing the “Incident, Accident, Near Miss” form. It was viewed as an administrative evil and the usual action to prevent a repeat was “told the operator to take more care”.
Then in the 90’s I was instructed that this just wasn’t enough. We needed to find more tangible ways to prevent the accident from reoccurring. I seem to remember sending a FLT driver who had hit a large pillar for an eye test and using of a lot of yellow paint to highlight obstacles!
I can feel you squirming at my unenlightened and reactive approach to safety. In this millennium I think we have tried to be more proactive. The emphasis has switched to prevention rather than taking steps after the event to stop it happening again.
Unfortunately we have then been exposed to, shall we say, some overzealous officials using the H&S name in vain.
A quick Google will reveal many ridiculous examples of H&S “gone mad”. Everything from children having to wear goggles to play conkers to removing door mats as they are a trip hazard.
Of course the problem created by the “Safety Elves” is that all the genuine advice and regulations are viewed with extreme speculation, or worse ignored. What’s even more insidious, if we wrap everybody and everything in cotton wool, how will the next generation learn to recognise potential hazards and estimate risks?
The Health and Safety Executive responded by setting up a Mythbuster Helpline where you can challenge disproportionate or legally inaccurate decisions made in the name of H&S.
At last we can have tea cakes served untoasted and understand the risks associated with doing tumble turns in the swimming pool.
Have we a sensible option?
In brief it encompasses both a reactive and a proactive approach to achieve zero accidents (slips, trip falls etc.), zero overburden (physical and mental stress) and zero pollution.
Over time the proactive approach becomes dominant and the culture shifts from a corrective control environment (think me in the 80’s) to one where the whole team acts together to achieve the goal of zero accidents.
To do this the team members draw from a range of SHE strategies that address both behaviour and equipment generated accidents.
This article lists some of the more common ones used by JIPM award winners. These companies have achieved many years of zero lost time and environmental accidents.
So to answer the initial question is yes, you can achieve zero accidents.
To find out how the SHE pillar can help you contact the IF team.