Is it realistic to expect that you can prevent all workplace accidents?
Some people will argue that with the right systems and processes in place combined with adequate staff training, there’s no reason why a business shouldn’t be 100% accident-free.
On the other hand, some people will argue that we’re all human and humans make mistakes. Not only that there are circumstances beyond our control that contribute to accidents.
We look at why businesses can’t prevent all workplace accidents, and the reasons why organisations shouldn’t strive to make them so.
Attempts to Prevent Workplace Accidents
Over the years organisations across varying industries have tried to make workplace accidents history. A variety of systems have been trialled in an attempt to ‘engineer’ hazards out of the workplace. A three-step approach is commonly used to identify the hazards, assess the risks and control the risks.
Hazards can be identified by inspecting the workplace, reporting incidents, keeping a register of injuries, consultation and feedback from employees. Next, the risks are assessed to determine the type of hazard, the severity of a potential injury, the layout of the workplace, the skills and experience of the workers involved. The third step involves preventing the risk by eliminating, isolating, or substituting the hazard and protective equipment.
Trying to Prevent Workplace Accidents Can Hurt Business
In an effort to eliminate all accidents, an organisation will place tight restrictions around what a worker can do in their role. The systems and processes are designed to keep the worker safe. So safe that he isn’t allowed to deviate from the system to find better ways of working because that involves risk.
Business Suffers from a Lack of Innovation
With everyone in the organisation tightly constrained in their role, there is no room for innovation. The organisation that doesn’t innovate will eventually be left behind and struggling to survive.
The Economy Suffers
If a country wants to consider itself clever, it needs businesses and individuals to be continually evolving and innovating. If companies don’t allow staff the room to innovate, new methods and inventions can’t occur.
If those businesses are unwilling to purchase new technology or equipment for fear of an increased risk to safety, then other firms won’t produce it. It doesn’t take long for the risk-averse culture of a country to impact on its ability to keep up with innovative countries.
While employees might appreciate that they are being kept physically safe, they can argue it’s at the expense of their mental health. Working to a tight set of systems and rules means there is little room for thinking. All that is required is for a worker to go through the motions of the job day after day, they don’t need to engage their brain. Some workers are happy with this way of working while others leave in search of more fulfilling work.
Finding a Balance Between Accident Prevention and Innovation
We believe it is impossible to eliminate all risk and the focus should be on making workers risk competent. Being risk and hazard aware, workers know how to work safely. They want to and believe in working safely. Workers who can see and judge risks are able to keep themselves and their colleagues safe from accidents.