It’s been nearly a decade since our first study on serious injury and fatality prevention explained why so many companies were seeing recordable injuries improve, while fatal injuries were level or increasing. Dr. Tom Krause, with collaborators from 9 global organizations studied the problem in 2010. They concluded that the disturbing trend was the result of differences in the precursors which lead to serious injuries and fatalities compared to other types of injuries.
This work demonstrated that the traditional approach to safety improvement is ill-advised. For decades, the strategy was to reduce exposure at the bottom of the safety triangle in hopes that serious injuries and fatalities would follow. Today we know that a top-down strategy is much more effective; focus on SIF precursors and supplement those efforts as needed in order to reduce all categories of harm. See the book 7 Insights into Safety Leadership, for a further discussion of these findings.
The global safety community has made progress integrating the new view into existing safety programs, but progress is uneven. For example, some organizations report SIF potential data all the way to their CEOs. This is positive and brings focus and attention to serious injury and fatality prevention efforts. However, just as many organizations have stalled, stuck in the quagmire of well-established systems and deep attachment to familiar metrics. Further, many safety leaders still struggle to recognize SIF precursors in their plants, let alone use precursor information effectively.
One organization, for example, has been aware of the original SIF study for over 6 years. Despite significant efforts to reduce SIFs, its leaders still do not agree on what a SIF is. They don’t agree on what situations have SIF potential. This lack of alignment has blocked progress and they stalled at level 2 on the SIF Maturity CurveTM, seen here.
Collaborative Innovation is Needed
Experience has shown that a group of organizations sharing experience, data, and expertise is a cost-efficient way to quickly build capability. Such a strategy can yield high quality, actionable information aimed at the groups’ specific objectives.
A single organization taking on the problem alone can spend years of study and millions of dollars. In the end, results don’t begin to match the learning potential of a collaborative approach. We believe the common value for safety and shared goal of preventing every serious and fatal injury represents a unique opportunity for a rapid learning model that will uncover methods to accelerate improvement.
More to Learn
Experience has taught us that safety leadership sets SIF improvement in motion. Our own research demonstrated that site-level leaders’ decisions play a major role in injury causation and prevention. Incident investigations show time and again that when SIFs happen, it’s almost always the case that layers of protection were compromised well before the event took place. Further, we realize that the way leaders go about solving these problems impacts safety culture, and culture overall, which in turn affects all areas of performance well into the future. Unfortunately, knowledge of these factors and using them to improve are different things.
Every organization has more to learn, but different organizations are in different places on the journey. We here at Krause Bell Group would like to help you in that journey and assist with your progress in moving your organization up the SIF Maturity CurveTM.