The author was introduced to occupational fatalities and serious injuries (FSIs) in the mid 90's while working as a safety professional in the elevator/escalator industry. During that era fatalities and serious injuries were common in the industry. Despite experiencing 8–10 fatalities per year, our company was respected for having one of the best safety records in the business. We maintained a very robust safety management system and design/implementation standards which were created through industry standards, best practices and lessons learned from our FSI events.
Recognizing that our safety approach, albeit successful at reducing OSHA Recordables, wasn't designed to effectively predict and prevent fatalities, we needed some way of focusing on operational risks with the potential to kill or seriously injure our employees - a field FSI risk reality check. To fulfil this need we developed a Fatality Prevention Audit (FPA) process. Our FPA was a globally deployed assessment of actual field operations to known FSI hazards and our required controls. It resulted in an excellent reality check of field processes, behaviors, conditions and precursors of FSI events which ultimately led to a significant reduction in FSIs.
Since those days I have developed and deployed numerous FPA programs for a wide variety of industries such and manufacturing, mining and steelmaking. Even in such a wide variety of operations, the process of designing and deploying an effective FPA process is largely the same.
This paper focuses on the key elements essential to the initial development and implementation of an effective FPA process - independent of your industry or operational environment.
Is your organization surprised when you have a serious or fatal accident, because you never saw it coming? Even if your organization has never experienced a fatality, asking "Why do we need a Fatality Prevention Audit" is a fair and very appropriate question. If your organization doesn't fully understand and recognize the value of this process, it will become more of an organizational burden than a value. And, if not deployed properly, it will offer a false sense of FSI risk security to management.