Traditional safety management involves writing a program that generally follows the OSHA Safety Standards. The program usually includes a policy statement, code of safety practices, rules and regulations, accident investigation, training, communication and inspections. The bulk of the program is a regurgitation of the safety standards as promulgated by the State or Federal OSHA. The organization then may add additional requirements to this program based on past experience, specific needs or external requirements.
The organization's concern for safety and the adverse effect of worker injuries really came to the forefront after the passage of workers compensation laws. This affected the cost of doing business and so focused industry's attention on accidents resulting from operation. The basic structure of most safety programs goes back to the three E's. This was created by the National Safety Council as a simplification of Heinrich's ten axioms for safety management. The three E's include: engineering controls, education, and enforcement. Virtually all the safety standards fall into these basic categories. The engineering controls try to buffer the worker from the hazards that exist in the work environment. Education deals with providing the employee with training on safe work practices and the use of protective systems. And of course enforcement deals with worksite inspections and causing the workers to comply with the organization's safety standards.
Typically, safety improvement strategies commence with a review of past losses. The loss analysis then defines the interventions the organization engages in for the coming year(s). These interventions usually consist of more training, emphasis on certain program elements, and more rigorous inspections. In the short term some improvement is inevitable, but in the long run the results never live up to the organization's expectations. Some of this is because the improvement strategy is based on history and the future situation is never exactly the same as the past. The data analyzed may not give a true picture of all the contributing factors or causes. And more importantly this process is focused on the worker and not on the organizational systems, the culture, the climate, the leadership and so on.
This approach has been less than successful as shown by historical loss statistics. We are still, on average, injuring about 6 workers out of every 100 on an annual basis. Most of the incidents that may cause worker injuries do not come from the physical environment, but from the actions of the employees. A research study of thousands of accidents conducted in Heinrich's time (1920s) found that they could not identify the cause of 2% of the accidents. 10% of the accidents were attributed to the physical environment and 88% resulted from actions of the employees at work. A later study of a much larger group of accidents attributed only 5% of incidents of the physical environment and 95% to the worker's actions. So the traditional safety program's emphasis on conditions does not focus on the behavior of the employees, and therefore has limited impact on controlling the cost-of-risk!