Most Safety programs focus on the most common incidents, not the most serious
Why is this?
Most workplace safety campaigns focus on “high frequency, low severity” incidents. For example; slips, trips, cuts and manual handling strains, in an attempt to reduce injury rates. This allows us to report a reduction in lost time and medical treatment injuries. But these do little or nothing to reduce fatality or serious injury risk. Safe Work Australia statistics for 2009/10 indicate the highest incident rates (based on workers compensation data “key work health statistics”) were related to muscular strain, whilst fatalities typically involved vehicle incidents.
Safe Work Australia’s 2012 publication “notified fatalities statistical report” shows an examination of fatality mechanisms over time, and this indicates that the highest contributor to worker fatalities is vehicle incidents (figure 1). However, a close look at the individual years (figure 2) actually shows fluctuation constant with vehicle incidents decreasing in the last 2 years, with an increase in being hit by falling objects.
How can we reduce fatality risks?
The fluctuation between the highest contributor to serious incidents and fatalities shows it is not possible to predict what risk will contribute more than others to a fatality in the workplace and thus it is important to monitor all relevant serious injury risks.
There are some programs which focus on fatality and serious injury hazards, such as the Toyota “STOP 6” program, designed to identify situations that could cause serious injury or a fatality, ensure effective controls are in place (to company standard).
Typical serious injury risks include;
- Vehicle accident
- Fall from height
- Item falling from height
- Struck by mobile equipment
- Electro shock
- Caught in machinery
- Fire and explosion, eg gas leak
- Hazardous substance exposure
- Over come in confined space
Manual handling assessments, Work Health checks and wellbeing programs are good safety initiatives and they do contribute to the overall reduction of injuries, but serious injury and fatality risks are likely to remain unchanged.