Results of recent attempts to reduce serious injuries and fatalities cannot be considered stellar. In 2007, a national forum on Fatality Prevention in the Workplace was sponsored by Indiana University of Pennsylvania in cooperation with the Alcoa Foundation. Many speakers suggested tweaking elements in existing occupational risk management systems.
At about the same time, ORC World-wide (now Mercer HSE Networks), an organization whose members represent about 120 of the Fortune 500 companies, conducted a study to identify the characteristics of serious injuries and fatalities. The intent of the study, which was partially achieved, was to provide member companies information on how to improve reduction efforts.
In announcing the Alcoa Foundation grant to support the fatality prevention forum, Lon Ferguson (2007) said: Reliance on traditional approaches to fatality prevention has not always proven effective. This fact has been demonstrated by many companies, including some thought of as top performers in safety and health, as they continue to experience fatalities while at the same time achieving bench-mark performance in reducing less-serious injuries and illnesses.
Ferguson's statement still applies, particularly the idea that "reliance on traditional approaches to fatality prevention has not always proven effective." Companies with outstanding records showing reductions in less-serious injuries may not have had similar reductions for serious injuries and fatalities. At Mercer HSE Networks, about 40 companies are involved in a study to determine what can be done to reduce occupational fatalities. Such studies are important, but major innovations in safety management systems are needed as well. Tweaking systems in place will not achieve the substantial improvements desired.