The Problem

Have you found yourself knocking against a safety performance ceiling - you can't see it but still feel blocked from rising higher? Or perhaps you are getting diminishing returns from your safety efforts - despite expending time, money and other resources, even trying different approaches?

This sometimes leads to senior managers and safety professionals becoming perplexed, frustrated, even angry about not seeing expected bottom-line gains.

You're not alone. The National Ergonomics Manager of a Fortune 500 company said, "We've already picked off the low hanging fruit." If you agree, then what might you do next?

The good news is that you've cut injuries, likely quite a bit. But people continue to be injured, costs are still being incurred. How can you move above the performance plateau?

Seeing what they are up against, many organizations have found mechanisms to control injury sources where they can apply mechanical controls (ergonomic design interventions), set policies and procedures (lockout-tagout) or personal protective equipment (eye injuries). For many companies, personal injuries remain their last bastion of frustration. The "nagging" injuries they continue to see are "personal" ones - often categorized as strains and sprains/soft tissue injuries, slips/trips/falls, finger/hand/wrist and arm injuries, knees injuries.

With good reason. In a work-thinner-and-faster world, many of these injuries are related to factors that are more difficult to mandate or engineer out. They are affected by the characteristics and skills (or lack of) of people working - impact of previous injuries, mental components such as attention, perception of risk, judgment and decision-making and more. There are also those injuries related to repetitions in a off-work behaviors/habits/patterns/tension-buildup carried over to the job.

But experience shows it is possible to achieve remarkable results with these personal injury sources. Start by considering a different approach. Functionally different. That is, if you want the opportunity of receiving different results. A Vice-President of a multi-national company said, "We've done many things to improve Safety at our company. To get another 1% improvement now, it's about us, the people and our culture."

It's about developing, supporting and applying tangible safety skills that people at all levels incorporate and use in their daily lives to prevent costly personal injuries.

Note: experience has shown that to realize significant and lasting gains in safety performance, two chicken-and-egg processes have to synergize:

  • improvements in individual behavior - to reduce risk and cumulative trauma buildup - and

  • boost in safety culture - to support and reinforce use of best individual safety skills.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.