Despite increasing efforts by U.S. industries to prevent occupational injuries and illnesses, incidence rates remain high. The incidence rate for non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses was 5.2 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers in electrical equipment manufacturing (SIC 3825) versus 4.6 cases in private industry (BLS, 2005). The investigation of severe injuries and fatalities may provide only limited insight into effective and efficient prevention strategies for less severe and more numerous minor injuries and illnesses, and may also encourage under-reporting of safety infractions.
An investigation into one electrical manufacturing facility's implementation of near-miss (NM) reporting yielded not only reductions in incidence rates and workers compensation costs, but an increase in NM incidents and productivity. Changes in incident/accident reporting, data analysis, and plant safety culture were found to be effective solutions with measurable positive outcomes.
In 2003, the newly named Chief Executive Officer defined safety as the company's primary objective. To reach this goal, two secondary objectives had to be met.
Describe the incidence of NM, minor, and OSHA recordable injuries over time and to evaluate any differences among the three event types by comparing respective risk factors.
Evaluate the utility of a NM reporting system by estimating its impact on the annual incidence of minor injuries and OSHA recordable injuries.
Executive leadership at the corporate level determined that if the plant were to be successful, a culture of safety must emerge. This new culture evolved into one that is energized by working safely, set aggressive goals to reduce recordable incident rates, and drives out waste and inefficiency caused by injuries. The following "Safety Mandates" emerged from this corporate-wide initiative:
Safety is everyone's responsibility.
All injuries and occupational illnesses can be prevented.
Management has a responsibility to train all employees to work safely.
Working safely is a condition of employment.
Preventing safety incidents and injuries contributes to business success.
A year after the safety movement began, the plant brought on a new Safety, Health and Environmental team. The goal for this team was to continue progress toward the culture that values safety as a core part of the business.
To achieve this goal the team used a three step approach: educate, empower and excite.
Management's commitment to provide a safe workplace must provide continuous training in safe work practices to all employees (team members). Formal training sessions keep employees current on new and existing safety methods and material covered is then enforced by supervision. Employees have been taught to pay close attention to close calls and small errors at work and home that could lead to larger errors. Team members are considered "athletes" and are provided with an industrial nurse, trigger point therapist, health fair, wellness committee, and wellness/fitness center which all serve to educate team members on the benefits of personal health and wellness. Supervisors and managers are given safety observation training to teach them to observe team members and give them feedback on safe behavior and unsafe behavior.