In Brief

  • Over the past decade, occupational injury rate reductions have primarily affected low-severity incidents, while serious injury and fatality rates decline more slowly.

  • One reason may be that operational leadership presumes OSH risks must be controlled equally regardless of severity potential.

  • This article discusses OSH risk assessment techniques as applied to zero harm programs, and ways to bring OSH expectations and strategies to a common denominator among various parties involved in a project.

The spectrum of achieved levels of OSH care and results (occupational mortality, injury and illness rates) varies between countries, industries and companies with an overall tendency for improvement. However, the occupational injury rate reductions achieved in the past decade and earlier are affecting more the low severity end of the incidents spectrum, while serious injury and fatality (SIF) incident rates are declining at a slower pace (Mangan, 2015; Manuele, 2003).

The strategy to accelerate the decline of serious and fatal occupational injuries is the subject of ongoing debate in the OSH profession. According to Mangan (2015), the discrepancy between the reduction achieved with SIF rates versus that achieved with relatively minor cases exists in part because companies' operational leadership and safety practitioners treat all incidents the same, while in reality only about 20% of incidents have the potential to become an SIF. One reason that operational leadership might treat all incidents the same may be a presumption that all OSH risks must be controlled equally no matter their severity potential in order to achieve the zero harm expectations that are embedded in many OSH programs.

This article discusses OSH risk assessment techniques as applied to zero harm programs, and describes ways to bring OSH expectations and strategies to a common denominator among all project stakeholders to better prevent serious incidents.

Safety Expectations: Parties Involved

In today's marketplace, companies' expectations of employee and subcontractor safety performance are driven by both ethical obligations and market pressures for competitiveness, as safety performance has become an important differentiator in many industry sectors.

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