Why Does Serious Injury and Fatality Prevention Require a Different Approach?


Courtesy of Behavioral Science Technology, Inc. (BST)

For some years, safety leaders have seen a troubling disparity between significant decreases in overall injury rates and relatively flat fatality rates. A study conducted in 2011 helps show why: traditional safety efforts often fail to reduce serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs) because they just weren't designed to. SIF events usually have different causes and correlates than less serious injuries and the potential for serious injury is low for the majority (about 80%) of non-SIF injuries.

Put in practical terms, if you used traditional means to reduce overall injuries by 20% you would net a corresponding reduction in SIFs of only about 4%.

Consider an example:

A large bottom valve of a pressurized vessel was leaking and had to be replaced. The vessel was emptied and the cake was vibrated off the filter by following a standard operating procedure for all plant vessels. The filter was blocked in with the gate valve identified in the procedure. When unscrewing the large bottom valve of the vessel, boiling oil came out and struck the mechanic. He quickly reacted, ran to the emergency shower, and removed his PPE and overalls with the help of his fellow mechanics. The mechanic was unharmed despite the fact the oil was about 100°C.

Like many SIF events, the exposure precursors in this situation would likely have gone undetected in a typical behavior-based safety observation. On the surface, everything looked like it conformed to the critical behavior definitions: the mechanic closed the gate valve, was wearing required PPE, and was standing out of the line of fire. Enhanced inquiry and interviewing, however, enables observers to identify these and other SIF exposure precursors such as, is the line-breaking procedure for this piece of equipment reliable and protective? Is it up-to-date, understood, and followed? Is preventive maintenance completed as scheduled? Were any deficiencies identified? Were they corrected?

Organizations can enhance their existing behavior-based systems to detect SIF exposure precursors and reduce incidents with high-risk potential. Join us for a complimentary webinar and learn where to start.

Webinar: How to Engage Employees in Addressing High-Potential Risks and Exposures. This webinar is offered March 31 and April 10. Learn more details and register now.

Attending the Safety in Action Conference? Attend the session on the BAPP® - SIF Discovery Process at 8 a.m., Saturday, March 21 to learn more about this topic.

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