“Organizations spend enormous resources on safety improvement, on safety processes of all different kinds. If all of that effort is reducing smaller injuries, but not reducing serious and fatal injuries, something is wrong,” says David Libby, Partner, Krause Bell Group.

We had a chance to speak with Libby about safety performance and a new paradigm for serious injuries and fatalities—one that looks at severe injury precursors and causes to reduce all categories of harm in a company.

Libby has been a leader in organizational safety coaching for more than 12 years, with experience in healthcare, mining, the food and beverage industry, chemical manufacturers, utilities and transportation industries. His practical approach to improving safety leadership, culture, and performance has been adopted by front-line employees all the way to chief executive officers.

In this two part series, we spoke with Libby about the old safety paradigm and the new safety paradigm. Our aim: to uncover what needs to be done, and what needs to be changed, to reduce serious injuries and fatalities more effectively. Here is the second part of our conversation with Libby.

Mobilizing Senior Leaders

So what kinds of things can organizations do once they understand the importance of focusing on the causes and correlations of serious injuries and fatalities, rather than just chasing the cause of the more frequent, less severe injuries?

First, make sure leaders are authentically committed to safety as a value – a moral imperative to protect the health and safety of their employees.

Libby says that he sees senior leaders who are very motivated by serious and fatal injuries, and in many cases, they take them personally. “If they have seen such an incident, in particular, it has kept them up at night, and it may have haunted them over the years, or it has in some way affected them very deeply.”

Even if executives haven’t experienced a safety-related incident first-hand, leaders that believe in investing in safety are the ones who are building a proactive and preventative safety program. “We can mobilize the efforts of senior leaders by engaging them in the process of what needs to occur in order to keep these kind of events from happening,” explains Libby.

When leaders are educated and informed about safety, they embrace safety. “And when organizational functioning is high and the safety climate is strong, people step up and contribute not only to safety, but in other business performance areas in really effective ways.”

Use Leading Indicators

Second, familiarize and then study your own data. Take a look at measures you are taking to stop and prevent the worst and most severe accidents from occurring. “Lagging injury statistics are not enough. You need to be able to look at your injuries and the near misses that you have, and rate their severity potential,” says Libby.

Take it one step further, do a longitudinal study by aggregating your data across locations or across your company over several years of data, says Libby. “Next, define these situations and activities that are associated with your serious injuries and fatalities and define the precursors in your organization,” adds Libby.

Examine all your safety efforts to see just how those relate to the precursors that set off or lead to serious and fatal events. Be sure to share those findings with key players in your organization to continue to get their buy-in.

Measure Your Serious Injury & Fatality Rate

If you haven’t already, develop a serious injury and fatality (SIF) rate. In simple terms, this looks at what constitutes a serious injury and then requires adding the serious injuries and the fatalities together divided by hours worked. The resulting number is your actual SIF rate.  If applied to minor incidents and near misses, you can also arrive at a potential SIF rate

Once you have your rating system set up (and you rate all your near misses and injuries using that classification) you can begin to better prioritize your safety improvement efforts and ensure that commensurate resources are being applied to the most severe exposures.

When people start to use data to help drive decision-making, sometimes there will be a leader who will, at first, object, says Libby. Be sure leaders know you aren’t using events as a mere statistic, and you aren’t saying people are just another number. In fact, says Libby it’s the opposite: “You are using past behaviors and events to avoid real humans—real people—from getting hurt in the future,” says Libby.

Look At Trends

Data becomes more powerful when it shows trends or when it showcases how the company is improving over time. What is your data telling you about the state of the culture? What are the (safety) activities that are most meaningful to your workers’ safety? How does that then impact the bottom line?

Don’t just measure once and stop—you want to be sure you are using the numbers and the data over time. Libby says to truly integrate and improve the health and safety of workers, you have to keep looking at the numbers and apply concepts into meaningful activities.

Equip Those Who Are On-Site

Not to be forgotten: ensure site-level leaders’ are equipped to report and problem-solve and make decisions that support all your other safety efforts. After all, these are the workers who are so often involved in the severe injury causation and prevention.

Become a Leader in Safety

Build your capability in preventing serious injuries. Use iReport to mobilize your workforce, understand leading indicators and trends. Learn more about how you can create a new safety paradigm with iReport. 

Learn more about how Krause Bell Group can help you kickstart your SIF prevention approach at www.krausebellgroup.com.