The Ten Basic Principles of Safety PRINCIPLES #5 & #6

The Ten Basic Principles of Safety

Article by Bob Lapidus, CSP, CSMS

Dan Petersen, Safety Management – A Human Approach
Aloray, Goshen, NY

In Memoriam: Dan Petersen (1931-2007)

There are certain foundational principles that safety management specialists should take to heart when creating, implementing and maintaining safety programs and associated activities.  Compiled by Dan Petersen, a guru in the field of safety management and my mentor, we have been discussing these principles in the past four articles, and we are now ready for the next two principles:

Principle #5: The function of safety is to locate and define the operational errors that allow accidents to occur. 

Over the years, I have met too many safety people who have been told they are not wanted in or near the operational functions of their organizations.  Their management believed that safety would slow down production and the safety people would get in the way of what needed to be done.

Crazy, right?  Where do accidents happen?  Where the people are doing the work.  Where should the safety specialist be?  At the same place.

Safety specialists are supposed to work with all parties to identify where errors are being made, where accidents have occurred, and where there is a potential for occupational injuries and illnesses to be sustained.  Safety is not the sole responsibility of the safety specialist.  Safety is everyone and everything.  If every manager, supervisor, foreman, and employee integrated safety into every task, losses would rarely happen.  Everyone would be doing the job safely, efficiently, and productively.

The main thrust of this principle is that we need to discover what is being done that poses a threat to employees and/or the work environment.

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Principle #6: The causes of unsafe behavior can be identified and classified.  Some of the classifications are overload (improper matching of person’s capacity with the load), traps, and the workers’ decision to err.  Each cause is one which can be controlled.

Historically in the field of safety, the causes of occupational injuries and illnesses were general in nature, such as:

  1. The employee was careless or
  2. The employee did not use his or her common sense.

Such causes were so generic not much could be done to prevent similar incidents from happening.  Principle #6 actually says we can zero in on the specific behavioral causes and do something about them.

PowerAnalysis, copyright 1999, a causal investigative tool created by this author and Michael J. Waite, Ed.D, gave us many specific factors relating to unsafe behavior.  They included such causes as:

  • Made an incorrect decision (error or omission)
  • Did not follow established expectations, policies, procedures, rules
  • Did not use provided facilities, equipment, materials
  • Was in a hurry
  • Was encouraged by peer group to behave undesirably
  • Did not report the problem
  • Did not know expectations, policies, procedures, rules
  • Did not know how to recognize the problem
  • Did not recognize the problem
  • Did not have the skills for the task
  • Lacked sufficient training

We can target these types of causes and do something about them.  We can identify exactly what employees are not doing safely or correctly and control the specifically-identified unsafe behavior.

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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.