Attention to company safety history is generally aimed at the benefits of saving lives and money in the work place.
There are real and large costs to lost-time accidents; costs of hospitalization, sick pay and even death. Accidents often occur because of equipment failure, and true costs include repair and replacement expenses, as well as lost production.
Avoidance of human injury, with its associated costs, is clearly a justification for an industrial safety program. It is a benefit to both management and staff that work be conducted in a safe environment.
Safety recognition programs, with rewards for safety achievements, are an excellent way to build unit pride and morale. Managers who are building great organizations should watch unit safety performances like a hawk.
Why is it important to monitor the safety performance of units within a company?
What does it mean when you find that one unit consistently has a much poorer safety record than others?
Everyone wants a good safety record, from the rig floor to the boardroom.
When a unit lacks a good safety record -- when an organization lacks what it says it wants -- a significant problem exists in the organizational unit.
The safety record is a singularly valuable indicator of the linkage between company desires and management's ability to control progress towards those desires.
When like operations are compared to like operations over a reasonable time period, substantial differences in the safety records indicate important differences in the way "like" operations are being carried out.
In one company's coal operations, for example, over half of all the serious accidents were being recorded at a single coal mine. Overall, the coal company still had a good safety record, but it is not rocket science to realize that something is terribly wrong at the mine with numerous accidents -- something that required management intervention.
To compare unit safety performance requires a formalized system of reporting injuries and lost time incidents. Humans being humans, audits are also required to see that staff members are properly monitoring safety incidents as required by company policies.
Those of us who have seen the human tragedy of accidents remain forever sensitive to safety in the workplace.
When Shell's helicopter went down on Sheep Mountain, Alaska, I lost three friends and, as the supervisor, had the responsibility of calling the next-of-kin and attending three funerals.
When my youngest daughter, Karen, heard I was writing an article on safety, she suggested that my readers might like to hear of my personal safety record and expertise.
Karen remembers our camping in the Rocky Mountains; a cold, rainy day, one that seemed to get colder and rainier the longer I struggled to get our fire going.
Finally, I threw a half-cup of gasoline on the pitiful flame. In an instant, the flame flashed back up to the cup; I flinched and got a little gasoline ignited on my arm.
As the family remembers the story, a cry went up:
"Daddy's on fire! BRING THE MARSHMALLOWS!"