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Why Zero Injuries is NOT Your Goal

Posted by Bill Sims Jr. on October 26, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Our guest on this episode of PRIMA Podcasts is Bill Sims, Jr., the president of the Bill Sims Company. For more than 40 years, the Bill Sims Company has created positive reinforcement systems that have helped large and small firms inspire better performance amongst their employees while increasing bottom line profits.

The Origin of the Zero Injuries Slogan

In 1981, while walking through a textile company, Bill noticed multiple signs and posters that read, “Zero Injuries Our Goal” and “Target Zero Injuries". It seemed that everywhere he went there were signs indicating how many days had passed since the last recorded injury. Bill believes that the reason many companies and public entities have this policy as a goal is that it has been around for many years and there hasn’t been much reason or encouragement to change this goal of no injuries.

It wasn’t until the BP tragedy in 2010, known as the Horizon Disaster, that Bill began to contemplate whether a zero injury policy is the ideal safety goal for entities. This company had gone 7 years without any reported injuries until that tragic day when 11 people died on an oil rig. Were they operating in the absence of accidents or in the presence of safety? Bill asserts that having a zero injury policy is setting your workplace environment up for unsafe behaviors.

Evidence That Zero Injuries is not the Goal

Bill asks the question, "are the employees within your workplace practicing and preparing for an injury or fatality? Or do they take shortcuts, whether its texting while driving or not following all of the safety procedures?" He stresses the importance of realizing that the way an entity functions demonstrates behavior, and if you want to change your workplace results than you need to start implementing changes to the behaviors.

Heinrich Triangle Regarding Safety

Underneath the last column on the triangle Bill has added "management at risk behaviors" and "worker at risk behaviors". Many organizations get stuck in the middle, focusing on minor injuries as a result of not having time or systems in place to get to the base of the pyramid and take actionable steps within the management team. Employees and management have a joint responsibility to modify the behaviors within the workplace in order to prevent injuries and fatalities.

Safety Should Never Be Second to Productivity or Profitability

Bill discusses the effects of incentive or punishment programs on the reporting of workplace injuries. These programs often inadvertently result in an increase in injuries and/or fatalities in the work environment, as employees may hide injuries or events out of a desire to be rewarded for fewer injuries or from fear of being fired for reporting an incident. If employees are not reporting all incidents, then there will not be a bottom level to manage on your pyramid. In light of this, OSHA is currently pushing for legislation that will make it illegal to incentivize based on lagging indicators.

New goal for you and your workplace is "zero at risk behaviors".