Safety-Management Leading Indicator Results in Unintended Consequences
- Adam Wilson (JPT Editorial Manager)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- August 2013
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 126 - 128
- 2013. Society of Petroleum Engineers
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- 31 since 2007
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This article, written by Editorial Manager Adam Wilson, contains highlights of paper SPE 164961, "Unintended Consequences of a Promising Safety-Management Leading Indicator," by Carl D. Veley, SPE, vMBA Consultants, prepared for the 2013 SPE European HSE Conference and Exhibition, London, 16-18 April. The paper has not been peer reviewed.
A metric based on a corrective-action-classification system initially appeared to be a valuable leading indicator for management purposes. However, after trial applications, it became clear that, when this metric was used to define performance goals, it had unanticipated consequences that cumulatively and insidiously caused more damage than the accidents it was intended to prevent. Category matching is an upgrade of that original metric and eliminates harmful unintended consequences of corrective-action classifications used alone.
Trailing indicators are by far the most common type of safety statistic. Governments, insurance companies, corporations, and essentially everyone who tracks accidents will record the number and type of injuries, plus the money spent on repairs, machinery replacements, wasted time, or other harmful consequences of accidents. Leading indicators are complicated by the fact that some dangerous acts (e.g., touching high-voltage switchgear) will always produce an accident with severe consequences while other dangerous acts (e.g., running a stop sign) might be repeated hundreds of times without causing an accident. In industrial work situations, no scientifically defensible equation exists where X dangerous acts produce Y accidents with Z fatalities.
As shown in Fig. 1, accidents come in packages with four components. In reverse chronological order, they are (1) consequences, meaning harm (either injury or damage); (2) the accident itself, an unplanned event; (3) an act of people, not intended to produce the accident; and (4) the reason the accident was not anticipated. A broken leg is never an accident. It is an injury and the consequence of an accident. An accident is an unplanned event, and a fall is always an accident regardless of whether it causes injury. The vast majority of accidents cause little or no harm, but confusing an accident with its consequences is a major obstacle to preventing accidents because the target of corrective actions is not clear.
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