Key Takeaways

OSH professionals are not taking full advantage of safety data to help prevent serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs). We have over-focused on accumulating common behavior and incident data that are rarely relevant to SIF prevention.

Grouping data according to control(s) and risk potential is more useful in identifying SIF precursors than the common practice of grouping by chance consequence.

Looking deeper at available data for both social and technical systems within a comprehensive safety management system can significantly improve the identification of factors that lead to catastrophic incidents.

CSB has commented that the oil drilling industry focuses excessively on personal workplace injuries and not enough on higher consequence activities to help identify danger signs before catastrophic events occur. After the Deepwater Horizon investigation, CSB concluded that too much industry attention was paid to controlling relatively minor personal injuries at the expense of looking more deeply at process safety and other high consequence activity that could lead to more serious incidents (Associated Press, 2012). Konrad and Shroder (2011) also note:

The intense concentration of Transocean and BP on relatively minor slips trips and falls had struck some as odd. They were, after all, sitting directly on a cavern of highly pressurized, highly flammable material that could erupt with horrifying consequences.

The U.S. total recordable incident rate has declined sharply in recent years and reached an all-time low in 2017 (BLS, 2018). This would be cause for celebration if not for the news that total worker fatalities increased in both 2014 and 2016, and rose to levels not seen since 2008 (BLS, 2018). In addition, the U.S. fatality rate has remained essentially flat for more than a decade while the average cost of workers’ compensation claims has increased significantly (Manuele, 2008). Other developed countries are doing a better job in controlling fatalities, most notably the U.K., with considerably lower (> 50%) fatality rates. As many have noted, an obvious and growing gap exists between the rate of incidents (as reported and often manipulated) and the frequency of serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs; Ivensky, 2017; Loud, 2016; Martin & Black, 2015).

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