Chief executive officers, managers, and supervisors are baffled by one question: "Why do we still have accidents? We have no limit to effort, lots of money and resources, and an enduring commitment to safety. Yet we still have (‘stupid’ but serious) accidents?"

What is the prevention? More devices, more systems, more procedures –because what else can we do? We have tried everything. Industry spends millions of dollars on safe operations, risk management, behaviour-based safety, cardinal rules, training…and yet, performance is not getting better. In fact, it may be getting worse.

In our high offices, executives are making decisions based on a sincere commitment (that look good in the Annual Reports) that create havoc down the organizational hierarchy. When accidents happen, the executives rightfully respond with the view that "something is wrong," that the system is broken, and they seek out reasons why people don't adhere to their policies.

For operational managers and front line supervisors, safety management has become a minefield. Every month they are confronted with a new safety "thing" from head office with yet another consultant in tow with yet another acronym. And every day they are confronted with growing mountains of safety paperwork. For the worker, it has become a killing field: Safety is killing initiative and innovation. and even the completion of a simple job in good time becomes a nightmare.

While other disciplines, such as engineering, operational management, human resources, environmental management, and processing, have made great and significant strides in their thinking, technology, and basic philosophies, safety management has remained stuck in the basic ideas of Heinrich's focus on human behavior of the 1930's and Frederick Taylor's command and control "scientific management " – which will soon be 100 years old!

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