The Ten Basic Principles of Safety: Principle #2

A Safety Management Approach

Article by Bob Lapidus, CSP, CSMS


Dan Petersen, Safety Management – A Human Approach

Aloray, Goshen, NY

In Memoriam:   Dan Petersen (1931-2007)

In Dan Petersen’s text, Safety Management:  A Human Approach, he presented ten basic principles of safety that should be the foundation of all safety programs, the problem-solving structure (paradigm) from which all safety programs should build upon.

In last month’s Inside Safety, we discussed principle #1:  An unsafe act, an unsafe condition, an accident:  these negative events are symptoms of something wrong in the management system. 

 In this month’s Inside Safety, we will discuss principle #2:  Certain sets of circumstances can be predicted to produce severe injuries.  These circumstances can be identified and controlled.  Circumstances include such things as:

  1. High Energy Sources
  2. Certain Construction Activities
  3. Public Safety Activities (Police and Fire)
  4. Working at Heights

The concept of the safety triangle (developed and documented by H. W. Heinrich in his book Industrial Accident Prevention, first edition, 1931) is still taught to safety people.  The principle behind it is simple:  For every 300 no injury incidents, there are 30 minor injuries, and one major injury.

The problem with the concept is that it generalizes why bad things happen.  An office could have 300 no injury incidents and 30 minor injuries, but never have a major injury.  On the other hand, a high hazard activity could have 300 no injury incidents and another 300 minor injuries, and many major injuries.

It all has to do with the degree of risk.  Dan Petersen went beyond the generalities, and said we needed to target where our higher risks were in our respective organizations and do whatever needs to be done to eliminate them or greatly reduce them.

We all know that when employees work with high energy courses, they have a greater risk of sustaining a severe injury.  Taking a short cut with high voltage can lead to horrific injuries.  Construction has long been a high hazard industry with high severe injuries.

What does this approach tell us to do?

  1. Target where in your organization your employees have a higher risk of severe injuries and put most of your safety program efforts into reducing the risks associated with these injuries.
  2. Examine your work environment beyond driving. Ascertain where your other high risks are located. Take assertive action to reduce the risks and minimize the frequency of associated injuries due to those risks. Finally, find methods to mitigate severe injuries in the event an accident should occur.

The most common such exposure is driving.  Many organizations do not have a high frequency of traffic accidents, but when one occurs, the odds of a severe injury, including death, is high.  Reduce this risk by giving your drivers defensive driving classes, purchasing safe vehicles, maintaining your fleet in accordance with manufacturer standards, and encouraging drivers to take it easy behind the wheel.

For More Information:

To become part of discussions on topics like the one above, go to www.safetycenter.org to obtain information about Safety Center’s Safety Management Specialist Certificate.

After completing this nine-day program, graduates may take the exam to achieve the Certified Safety Management Specialist (CSMS) designation. Once this certification is achieved, successful candidates keep it for the rest of their lives without any additional requirements or fees.