Introduction: Why Focus on Injury Reduction Is No Longer Sufficient

This paper discusses how changing the organizations focus from preventing accidents to exposure reduction is a critically necessary step to achieving a zero injury culture. This focus adjustment allows a company to no longer try to define which actions and judgments will be at the root of the next injury or event. The initial discussion begins with an examination of the problem with an injury-focused safety program as well as the working interface between the worker and the equipment. The difference between making decisions on actions based on whether I think there is a likelihood of an injury and whether exposure is changing regardless of the possible outcome will be explained. This seemingly small obtuse point will be illustrated with the use of several everyday examples. We will examine five areas in which a shift to exposure focus can occur. Lastly, we will leave you with some suggestions about going forward in your safety focus planning.

The Problem with an Injury Focus

Many safety practitioners know that systematic barrier removal can and does improve safety performance, employee engagement, and even site culture. But even high-functioning processes can suffer from a degree of 'drag' on process activities and goals created by internal factors. Most sites have some form of this such as: continued poor risk perception or hazard recognition, pessimistic organizational attitude, or management and mechanical systems that slow or even impede improvement. In these situations, it is important to identify leverage points to improve the process.

One of the things that we fall victim to everyday is cognitive bias. The knowledge of this insidious barrier is a place to gain leverage. I will illustrate this barrier with a simple model that is the learning model. The learning model is the principle that explains how we learn and change beliefs. Unfortunately, some of these beliefs are actually allowing all levels of the organization to become blind to exposure. While all of us encounter the effects of the learning model, few recognize what it is doing to our ability to recognize exposure. The result is that things such as hazard perception and risk recognition can seem stuck or unchanging. We often hear of accidents being labeled as "stupid". Organizations who understand the bias that is naturally occurring every day as a result of the model we learn by in managers, supervisors and workers alike can use that knowledge to improve the way they identify exposure and approach barriers.

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