Increase the Value of Safety by Preventing Serious Injury & Fatality

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January 31, 2019
By Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

At Enablon Insights, we cover topics that are suggested by members of the Enablon community. We recently received an interesting idea regarding the cost of a serious injury or fatality (SIF): How much higher should a company’s profit margin be to offset a serious work-related injury or fatality and still earn a profit on the work project? The answer to this question could appeal especially to people in upper management who tend to understand safety best through numbers and real-world case studies.

The question is not necessarily an easy one to answer, even for researchers and statisticians in occupational safety and health. We can try to calculate the cost of a serious injury through things like workers compensation, hospital bills and prescription drug costs, but there are other costs that are less quantifiable because there are no bills or calculations of amounts, including: the loss of productivity due to worker absence, time and resources used to train/transfer other workers, and the emotional toll and mental strain as a worker is rehabilitated.

To calculate the cost of a worker fatality is even more complicated. How do you place a numerical value on a life, particularly to that person’s family, friends and colleagues? What about the cost to a company or brand in terms of reputation?

Another way to approach this issue is to instead focus on  strategies that companies use to prevent serious injuries and fatalities. A white paper from the Campbell Institute, Serious Injury and Fatality (SIF) Prevention: Perspectives and Practices, outlines some of these strategies from six Campbell Institute member and partner organizations. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

Defining “SIF Potential”

In general, organizations in the study classify a near miss incident as having SIF potential if it could have resulted in a serious injury or fatality if not for certain barriers or countermeasures, or if one factor around the event had been changed.

Determining SIF-Potential Events

The process for determining if an event had SIF potential can be different from one organization to another. Also, the person or group of people that evaluates SIF potential can be different. In general, organizations use a risk matrix and score an event on potential severity and likelihood. Events that score high in the risk matrix are flagged as having SIF potential.

Coaching and Training for SIF Prevention

Several organizations engage their workforce in training to understand SIF and SIF prevention, incorporating it as part of general safety training or as a special topic for global safety weeks or safety stand downs. Training focuses on the tools to mitigate SIF and to make proactive reports of SIF potential.

Communication Around SIF and SIF Prevention

Some companies will share lessons learned from high-potential events with the workforce, on an as-occurred basis or through regular scheduled communications. The idea is to encourage proactive reporting and to keep everyone vigilant.

Leadership Support of SIF Prevention Efforts

All organizations agree that the support and sponsorship from executive leadership is crucial for the resources and implementation of SIF prevention efforts. SIF prevention has become a way to engage senior leadership and get them involved in safety discussions and global safety days.

The question asked at the beginning of the post is still important and relevant. Even though some may understand safety better through numbers, too much focus on the financial bottom line can misdirect efforts. If we instead concentrate on preventing serious injuries and fatalities from the start, we don’t have to worry about how much higher profit margins have to be. The value of safety will always be there.

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Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

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