That’s equivalent to the cost of building twenty large hospitals or ten “super hospitals”.
Research tells us that most workplace accidents (60-80%) are attributable to human factors2 – the behaviours and attitudes associated with safety and risk. Yet most management attention seems to be focused on organisational commitment to safety, compliance with procedures, safety equipment and the extent of safety-related communications.
As safety-critical equipment becomes better people become a greater risk. This is because equipment generally fails safe, whereas people tend to fail unsafe.
If the number of workplace accidents is to be reduced, there needs to be a greater emphasis on understanding the behaviours, or culture, associated with safety. The problem is that behaviours and attitudes to safety can be difficult to measure. Perhaps this is why these “soft” aspects of safety remain a blind spot for many organisations. So long as traditional safety surveys concentrate on how safety is managed and communicated, organisations will never discover whether employees really “walk the talk”.
We know that individuals, teams and departments with a higher risk tolerance believe that their actions will not result in negative outcomes or that they can manage the consequences. A better understanding of attitudes to risk has the potential to provide advance warning of the teams or departments that are more likely to have accidents and for preventative measures to be taken.
The good news is that attitudes, dispositions and perceptions of safety can be measured and high risk areas can be identified. Using a normed survey, it is possible to identify the level of risk posed by individuals, teams or departments. The safety culture survey is based on five behaviours which are associated with people and processes and are strongly correlated with safety:
- planning ahead
- attention to detail
- following procedures
- teamwork and communications
- showing responsibility
The results are presented in five levels of risk ranging from low to very high. Since the data is normed, a direct comparison is being made with similar organisations.
By taking a behavioural approach to safety, it is now possible to identify the areas where people are more likely to fail unsafe and to target special initiatives based on specific circumstances.
- Health and Safety Executive, Costs to Britain of workplace injuries and work-related ill health: 2009/10 update
- Aas, A. L. (2008) The Human Factors Assessment and Classification System (HFACS) for the oil & gas industry, International Petroleum Technology Conference; Aas, A. L. (2009) Probing human error as a causal factor in incidents with major accident potential. Third International Conference on Digital Society.