Hunger to Learn

I was approached by a manufacturing leader a few weeks ago with some questions about the varying levels of incidents that have an effect on an organization.  I’d like to say these teaching opportunities happen often, but alas they do not.  Let’s face it, Safety is not as sexy as building a product, shipping it to a customer, and making money.  There is a stigma surrounding safety that we as Safety Professionals have helped perpetuate, with our jargon, requirements, and smug ‘know-it-all’ attitude.  So our lack of sex-appeal in addition just makes it that much harder to reach out to people or be approached about safety.

This leader was motivated by a hunger to learn as much as he could in order to help keep his employees safe.  As a leader he wanted to know have general knowledge of every facet of the duty he has to his employees; with their safety being his number one concern.  I firmly believe that a leader with that mindset will make changes to any organization they are a part of.  It is not about only safety or only productivity, it is about having all facets of a company work in unison to achieve the organizations goals.  Great leaders know this and gain a general knowledge of every one.  Below is the answer to some of the questions he had.

Near Miss

A near miss is an incident or condition that could cause bodily harm or property damage, but luckily did not.  A person can recognize a near miss in the performance of their duties by either spotting a condition that is out of the norm, realizing that part of the process poses a hazard to workers, or witnessing an incident that narrowly avoided injury or property damage. Near miss reporting is important to an organization as it can tip Management off to a flaw in the process that was not previously considered when the process was newly implemented.  Corrective actions can be devised and implemented to improve the process with the information gathered during an investigation.  Near miss reporting helps improve working conditions by controlling hazards before someone gets hurt.

Incident (or Injury)

An incident is when someone was injured or property was damaged on the job. Even if the injured party goes to an occupational clinic, it can still be classified as only an incident if it does not meet the definition of a recordable injury per 29 CFR 1904.7.  The reporting of all incidents in the workplace is important because it helps an organization control hazards inherent in the process and can aid in the prevention of future incidents.  It also allows the organization to take appropriate action to provide the appropriate level of care to an employee who has become injured.  Though an incident exposes flaws within the process, it is another way Management can be alerted that something needs to be changed sooner rather than later.

OSHA Recordable Injury

A recordable injury is an injury requiring medical treatment beyond first aid as defined in 29 CFR 1904.7.  Some of the items that constitute a recordable injury include; days away from work (beyond the day of injury), stitches, administration of prescription strength medication, loss of consciousness, bone fractures, job-transfers or restrictions.  These injuries are recorded on the OSHA 300 log, which in some cases is submitted to OSHA each year under the new rule.  A recordable injury is evidence that there is a significant failure in the process allowing employees to become seriously injured. Before a recordable injury there are generally copious warning signs; near misses, and incidents have likely occurred but were either not reported or dismissed by Management.

OSHA Reportable Injury

 A reportable injury is an injury that must be reported directly to OSHA.  Severe injuries such as loss of an eye, amputations, or injuries requiring inpatient hospitalization must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours of the incident.  Fatalities must be reported within 8 hours. At this point the likelihood of an OSHA inspection is nearly guaranteed. 

Bringing it Together

In a perfect world all potential hazards would be caught and mitigated before employees even start working on a process, but unless mature hazard recognition and change management processes are in place this seldom happens.  There are plenty of opportunities leading up to an injury that should not be ignored, the near misses and incidents can be investigated and corrective actions implemented to prevent escalated injuries.  This information however is only as useful as the organization’s use of it.  Leaders who make successful utilization of the interlinked facets of an organization use near miss and incident information to transform troubled processes and organizations to safe and productive profit centers.