Where are you, and where do you want to be in terms of advancing your organization's safety functioning? Your goals are probably the first thing that comes to mind. But we have learned from working at thousands of client sites around the world that a goal by itself — often a big goal such as zero harm or safety's integration into the actual organization — doesn't define extraordinary safety.

The problem is we keep trying to reach goals in small ways: successions of discrete activities that rarely represent a comprehensive strategy. Safety continues to be dominated by a project-engineering mindset. Stand-alone initiatives are isolated and vulnerable to a lack of leadership and employee engagement. Programs are compounded rather than integrated, creating a safety silo of program activities, one piled on top of the other, and all separate from the organization mainstream. This puts a lid on safety progress and thinking. Safety becomes confined in the organization; its value limited.

The result of this dynamic was summarized at the beginning of 2012 by ASSE President Terrie Norris, who declared, "This nation's efforts to protect workers is stalled."

It is time to challenge safety's conventional wisdom and methods. Systems or mechanisms that reduce or remove exposure to hazards in the workplace are of course essential, but they will not provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the gap between where your organization is regarding safety, and where you want it to be. Safety programs or campaigns with start dates and deadlines will not give you what Zero Index organizations thrive on: the ability to embrace a big picture, a holistic view of where the organization is and where it desires to be.

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