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Reducing Serious Injuries and Fatalities: Helping Those Most at Risk

January 17, 2018


Just do the math! The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, is a simple concept that describes situations in which a relatively small group is responsible for an unusually large result. In the safety world, we see this regularly, with 20% of the workforce accounting for 80% of the safety incidents. Last week we discussed the safety traits, or SafetyDNA®, that 20% of your workforce possesses - which, in turn, make them 5X or more likely than the rest of your workforce to seriously injure themselves (or others). These safety factors are Control, Awareness, Rules, and Caution.

SafetyDNA® and Likelihood of Serious Injury

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The good news is that, for the first time ever, we can assess individuals' SafetyDNA and identify those most at risk of injury.

Now that you know we can identify those most at risk of injury, I need to caution you. If you’re pondering the unthinkable...that is assessing your workforce, identifying those most at risk, and finding ways to move them out, you can’t do that and should not. Remember: no employee is without issue and, therefore, your safety strategy needs to evolve and include all. This said, your workforce contains diverse individuals with traits that make some much more at risk of injury than others. By taking safety to a personal level, those most at risk (and the remainder of your workforce) can reduce their exposures through targeted assessment, education, and support systems. Let me explain.

Step One - Assess/Educate:

Nobody is completely safe. Our research shows that even those with the strongest SafetyDNA can injure themselves. While this occurs much less than to those in the other groups and the injuries are less severe, it still remains a possibility. Therefore, all employees need to see their SafetyDNA results and receive personal feedback as to how their safety traits impact their personal safety. They will gain new insights into those traits responsible for much of their at-risk behaviors. This is game-changing: safety stops being a company program, external to the employee, to become deeply personal. Employees go beyond site safety rules and corporate safety policies, and for the first time examine their most important safety asset, the traits residing inside their brains. Custom online training, with certified site coaches, ensure all employees receive proper education and coaching.

My experience assessing hundreds of thousands of individuals’ safety traits confirms that personal safety is of interest to everyone. The individual, their co-workers, management and of course, their families. No one wants to be debilitated by a life-changing injury – and now we can effectively limit the chances of this happening. To do so, we must stop training and treating everyone as if they possessed the exact same level of safety traits. This is a critical first step in reducing serious injuries; assess your workforce's SafetyDNA, and then educate them on how to leverage their natural safety disposition.

Here's an Example:

Mike, a maintenance worker, is low in the safety factor, Caution. Over the years he has injured himself numerous times. These include lacerations, muscle strains, bruises, and even burns.

Interestingly, Mike tells me about his injuries with some pride, explaining one should not go into his type of work unless he is ok with a few minor injuries…after all, this is a physical job.

Once Mike learns his injuries are not as much related to the inherent exposures associated with maintenance work as they are to his unique SafetyDNA, he understands for the first time that his injuries were not inevitable. His light-hearted laughter now changes to intense thought; then, slowly he says to me: “why didn’t anyone tell me?” I explain that we have only recently found scientific data that allows us to assess individuals' SafetyDNA accurately. We then review his past injuries and identify the personal safety traits responsible for his behavior. He quickly gets it – and the light switches on; he has no push back, but rather appreciation and a desire to learn more.

Here's how it happened: Mike recently strained his back while attempting to manually lift a 60-pound electric motor onto a stand. The SOP requires using a hoist, and most of his co-workers use it. However, Mike rationalizes not using it: when he goes to the gym, he works out with weights much heavier than 60 pounds, so he thinks his chance of injury is low – although he acknowledges that an electric motor is not the same as a barbell. While those higher in the safety trait Caution naturally sense the imminent danger of doing this work manually and so choose to use the hoist, Mike doesn't perceive this risk and chooses the faster (and riskier) route. He thought his back injury was just a fluke. Now, he understands how being low in Caution causes him to underestimate exposures, increasing his likelihood of injury.

Step Two: Point Out Internal Exposures using TaskDNATM Graphics

Up until now, safety has been implemented from an external perspective. This means that it was fueled by this logic: "if workers knew better, they’d do better." We train, provide PPE, and tell them to work safely. We do not take into consideration the internal safety traits each employee possesses which impacts what he or she does with the safety training and PPE we provide, especially when no one is looking. Companies now are realizing the importance of reminding employees of the key internal exposures associated with work tasks, often referred to as TaskDNA™. Here is an example.

A client has issues with forklift safety at their distribution center. New drivers go through extensive training, and then through annual recertification. Pull any driver aside and ask a question related to forklift safety, and he/she will answer correctly. So what’s going on?

Drivers lower in the safety factor, Awareness, struggle to manage all the exposures around them. They, more than others, bump into fixed objects and have even run into warehouse workers. Denise is one of the forklift drivers who is low in Awareness. On her forklift is a TaskDNA graphic with the safety factor, Awareness, highlighted. She knows her safety is compromised when she attempts to multitask while driving. Therefore, she does not allow herself to get distracted when operating the forklift, for example, by only answering her radio when the forklift is completely stationary – no exceptions.

Reducing serious injuries and fatalities by taking personal safety to the next level requires a valid assessment of one’s SafetyDNA. Then, using that data as the starting point, it requires educating workers so they are aware of their safety blind spots. Lastly, using workplace TaskDNA signage, we alert workers what hidden internal exposures exist in the daily tasks. These constant reminders reinforce the role SafetyDNA plays in their personal safety.

If this all sounds new to you, check back next week as we discuss our most recent findings and how you can get involved in future safety research projects with us as we build on our last 10 years of research.

making safety personal

Chris Klinvex Chris Klinvex , was the EVP and Co-Founder of Select International, acquired by PSI. He led the Safety Solutions Group focused on innovative research based safety solutions that are changing how organization approach workplace safety. His team’s most recent award for the new SafetyDNA® Assessment and Development program won the prestigious 2017 Best Online Safety training award from Occupational Health and Safety.