How to have a big industrial accident. Step by step guide.

If you want to have a big industrial accident.  Here’s how:

Start by committing your organization to achieve a grand goal about minimizing or eliminating all incidents.  This will cause an enormous fuss about small things because most of your incidents are small things.

Next, as you are finding it a bit difficult to eliminate the small things, engage a culture change consultant.  Curiously this consultant will not have any capability to actually advise about reduction in risks in your organization but rather will take you on a “journey of engagement” or something equally as obscure.  Definitely avoid anyone with engineering expertise.

When selecting the consultant especially look for these words: leadership, culture, behavior and even things as remarkably convincing as neuroscience.  The consultant will tell you that leadership involves engaging the coal-face workers on human error reduction using principles of psychology.  Worn-out statistics by Herbert Heinrich will be made new again pointing out that 97% of incidents are due to the actions of the last person in the chain (not you; what a relief).

The program will take years and involve training sessions with leaders, supervisors and people at risk.  All three layers of cheese making up the new hierarchy of control will be there: “the sand” (put your head in the sand, this is where it starts with the focus on small things and the 97% fake statistics), “the card” (training in behaving safely in the face of danger); and “the inspectors” (leadership walk-around, peer-peer observations, etc) .  Metrics will be produced particularly around the “inspectors” aspect so that graphs can be generated about observations, interactions, etc.

The organization’s management now firmly has its head in the sand (if not somewhere else less polite).  Everyone has been convinced that there is in fact nothing wrong with the hazard control systems and that safety is all about behavioral exhortations, observations and basically the workers being careful.

No one has been worrying about fundamental hazard analysis and reliable prevention.  This is pointless because it reduces the risk of a loss of control of a major hazard which is by definition an infrequent possibility.  Tightening the reliability of control of this sort of problem is not of much use in helping with the important graphs of “leading indicator” metrics.

Everything is now going very smoothly in terms of developing the circumstances for a major accident.

Related article: Don’t get business leaders interested in safety


About John Culvenor

Hi, Thank you for taking a look at this blog. I work in engineering, ergonomics, creativity, design, training, etc. Often this is about helping solve legal puzzles through accident analysis. Sometimes it is about thinking up better designs for equipment, workplaces, and systems. This blog is about good design and bad design, accident analysis and how it can be done better, and how we can make a better, safer world by design!
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7 Responses to How to have a big industrial accident. Step by step guide.

  1. suzanne jackson says:

    What a great story to start my day! Such a familiar story too.

  2. Len Beggs says:

    Thanks again John.
    As I am directed to implement BBS in my workplace (without belief in its value) I use these views in an attempt to alter perception of what we actually need to do…..fix what we know is already wrong. Moreover the people that we want to engage with the program are the same people who have reported the hazards. Perhaps we can make them safer by addressing these concerns rather than introducing a new system.
    Regards, Len

  3. Hi Len, It sounds as though you are able to find a way to work within a program; even a flawed one.

  4. Fred Hill says:

    Thanks for that John and I couldnt agree more. I always find it frustrating that it never seems to be the responsibility of the person/s who can actually fix something, to actually fix something. Maybe we should measure it?

    • Hi Fred, Indeed. I wonder how. It is an old problem: worker carelessness, driver error, pilot error, etc but it comes nowadays in a range of different disguises.

      Is there for instance any examples where people who face the risks get to do “interactions”, “observations” and “walk-throughs” of the decision-making work of people who run businesses, design manage and organise work, etc? These are the decisions that count. These are the errors that count.

      Your question – how to count them. First of all someone would have to be interested!

  5. Pingback: Organisational accidents – the harm of zero harm | safedesign

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