“How could that have happened?”
That’s a question that’s asked after many workplace incidents. Rather than blame “things,” what are the underlying causes of workplace accidents?
Here we break down 7 common causes of incidents:
1. Taking shortcuts
Shortcuts can happen because employees are under pressure to perform or under pressure to be more productive. They can also happen because people simply like to hurry and get the job done, or they aren’t aware of what could happen because of “cutting corners” (1).
What can help work against people taking shortcuts: make sure you don’t have objectives (like productivity) that can work against safety. Also be sure jobs are designed in a way that allows for safety and efficiency.
2. Too much confidence
Even though insecurity on the job can lead to accidents, too much confidence can also put people at risk. Too much confidence shows up with thoughts or attitudes like “it’s never happened before to me” or “I’ve been fine up until now.” This is a dangerous mindset that can encourage risky decision-making and high-risk behaviors. Another sign of a problem: the attitude, “It’ll never happen to me” (1).
How to work against “over-confidence”: bring up this mindset in your safety meetings and during safety training. Build peoples’ self-awareness so that they can catch these thoughts or behaviors—in themselves and in others—before they result in accidents. Be sure your culture allows people to give feedback to others in this regard.
3. Starting a task without all the instructions
It’s not surprising that if an employee doesn’t know the proper way to do a job, incidents can be more likely to happen.
What can be done to make sure employees don’t start a task without full instructions: part of the reason employees may take on a task even with incomplete instruction is because of pressure. Make sure your company isn’t putting too much pressure on people to begin something before they really should. Make sure employees are able to speak up in appropriate situations, too.
There are so many different types of distractions that are possible on the job today! Not all of those distractions are even related to our work or to our work environment…it can even be something outside of work that distracts someone.
What can be done to reduce distractions: as a leader, do you best to check in with your people and to make sure they aren’t distracted. For example, if you know someone is having a difficult time at home, offer them the opportunity to take time off of work when it’s possible.
Be sure you are giving workers enough breaks and enough variety to avoid routine as much as you can. You can never eliminate all potential distractions, but you can do your best to minimize them.
5. Poor housekeeping
Proper housekeeping eliminates or controls risks and hazards. But, on the other hand, poor housekeeping can contribute to accidents and incidents. It might be slip hazards, dirt and debris on or around equipment, or it might be something larger like the layout of a workspace. Whatever it may be, facility maintenance and upkeep is important for safety (1).
What can be done to make sure you have a good housekeeping program: re-visit your housekeeping plan and see if implementation is up to your standards. Not only is a plan important, but putting an ongonig investment into your housekeeping is critical.
Be sure that worker training is sufficient and ongoing. Checklists and inspections also go a long way in making sure standards are upheld.
6. Not pre-planning your hazard analysis
Pre-planning helps everyone get on the same page and it sets expectations. Going through the process helps identify hazard controls and it forces team members to think through tasks and processes.
What can be done to make sure JHAs happen: create a list that captures the jobs where you will need to do a hazard analysis (or where you need to re-examine an existing one). Then be sure the next steps are clear!
7. Ignoring safety procedures
When people are too comfortable, or when they think certain safety rules or policies don’t apply to them, trouble can be around the corner.
What can be done to make sure safety procedures are followed: make sure that as soon as a new employee or worker comes onboard, they know how important safety is at your company. Throughout the entire employee experience, that same focus should always be there.
Make sure they recognize that every decision they make doesn’t just impact them, it impacts others.
Use positive reinforcement, make sure you involve workers in the safety process, and be sure to get feedback that you incorporate into your culture. All of these factors help people to stay engaged with their work and help people feel a sense of responsibility to uphold those safety standards.
Complacency Causes Accidents
What’s at the heart of many of these root causes? Complacency.
Complacency gives us a false sense of security, and it can have disastrous consequences.
There are tools that can help you look back to find the root cause of an incident, but tools like iReport can also help you know more about leading indicators so you can better spot complacency before an accident. This way, you can minimize complacency as much as possible in your company.
Find, Report & Fix Hazards In Your Workplace
With iReport, you can easily collect the data you need to understand your leading indicators. That way, you can understand your highest risk areas so you can take action and do your best to prevent incidents and accidents going forward.