Coffee Cup Safety


Coffee Cup Safety


The trend in the workplace safety where safety committees, and others, focus on minor risks at the expense of more serious risks, albeit less likely to occur, has been termed “coffee cup safety”. Possibly because of the rules in some organisations mandating tops on all coffee cups.

We all understand the risk of hot coffee spilling on people, but some of us wonder if this is the top priority for the business.

Below is a selection of topics and issues raised at the recent conference conducted by the Risk Engineering Society in Brisbane.

Inadequate Procedures
Many procedures focus on quality and equipment safety, but are silent or inadequate on personal safety. Proof! Many accident investigations find the hazard (which caused the accident) was not mentioned in the procedure, or if so, offered inadequate controls.

When can we accept a procedure for control? 
Answer – when we have “engineered” a solution as far as reasonably practicable.

How do we know when the level of safety is dropping?
This question highlights the lack of process safety indicators in most organisations, and poses a follow-on question.

Do you have a “safety dashboard”, and is it accurate?
Think of your monthly safety report like the dashboard of a car, with various instruments showing how the car is performing. You need instruments (performance measures) for each important parameter, and importantly they need to be accurate.

LTIs – A poor indicator of future performance
A low lost time injury (LTI) rate is a poor indicator of future performance, or even of absence of serious deterioration of the safety program, yet so many businesses use LTIs as the prime safety measure. This could be similar to using the “rev” counter in your car to judge the speed of your vehicle.

599 Days with No LTI!
Imagine a sign at the front gate which says the business has gone 599 days without a lost time injury. Does this confirm it is a safe site? Not necessarily!

Now imagine this scenario - an injured worker receives a phone call, while being treated at hospital for a work injury, from the school asking him to come and collect his sick child. What do you think happens next with the company on the verge of achieving a record 600 days without a work injury? You may have guessed it – the HR Department retrospectively grants the worker compassionate leave, and the sign at the gate tomorrow proudly displays 600 days without a work injury.

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