A new report from the National Safety Council's Campbell Institute takes an in-depth look at look at workplace fatalities and life-altering injuries and and illustrates a new prevention model suggested by safety experts in recent years.

According to the report, Serious Injury and Fatality Prevention: Perspectives and Practices, the U.S. has seen enormous gains in workplace safety, which are borne out by the total recordable incident rate, which dropped to 3.0 incidents per 200,000 working hours in 2016 from 8.5 incidents in 1993.

However, that reduction is not paralleled by a similar reduction in life-altering injuries and fatalities.

In fact, workplace fatalities are at an eight-year high, with 5,190 people dying in 2016.

Rethinking the Safety Triangle

The report recommends a redesign of the classic safety triangle, which consists of non-injury accidents, minor injuries, and major injuries.

This model treats all minor incidents and near misses as if they had the potential to result in a more serious injury or fatality and diverts attention away from the incidents that have the most potential to result in something serious.

The updated structure is based on identifying the root causes and contextual factors that lead to serious and fatalities on the job.
The updated structure is based on identifying the root causes and contextual factors that lead to serious and fatalities on the job.

Organizations cannot make their workplaces safer by "fixing the worker," says the report. Instead, they should design work processes to eliminate human error. This makes safety less dependent on employee behavior and more dependent on the safety system.

"Companies in our report know that safety is a work-in-progress with the goal of continuous improvement," said John Dony, director of the Campbell Institute, in a statement.

"To be at the top of their game, these companies recognize that they have to do more to protect their workers. While such incidents may not occur with frequency, implementing a serious injuries and fatalities prevention program is how these organizations move to the next level of maturity."

Strategies for Improvement

Strategies for preventing workplace fatalities and life-altering injuries from occurring include identifying potential precursors to such events and educating employees about those precursors.

In addition, companies can focus on eliminating the potential for such incidents to occur.

Taking those steps can lead organizations to to a higher level of safety management, as shown by the companies featured in the report.

"The organizations featured in our report consistently pointed out that going from the concept of a serious injury and fatality prevention program to actual implementation requires careful planning—both around the processes used and the responsibilities assigned," Dony said.

"In addition, buy-in is needed from the entire organization, from the top down. Having these factors in place will go a long way toward implementing a successful prevention program."


Register now for CBIA's Boost Productivity with Smarter Workplace Safety workshop, designed to help you better align your EH&S protocols with lean initiatives, Jan. 9, 2019, from 8:30 to 11:30 am at the CBIA Conference Center in Hartford.