Excuses Are Not the Right Path to Maximizing Safety
Many “weak” clichés are used as excuses for accidents. These excuses are, for the most part, just cop-outs. As such, if these explanations are to be believed, then the inference can be drawn that no more than a cursory accident investigation should be conducted. That’s the primary problem with offering these trite, ill-conceived rationalizations. Following is a concise examination of some of the most useless, offensive and ignorant of these claims.
“I told him a hundred times.”
Maybe you did tell him several times. But what specific, assertive, definitive steps did you take to modify or stop the behavior? Telling an employee something is not, in itself, tantamount to causing that employee to act in a different way or to cease acting in the unsafe way. Did you explain what could go wrong and how the employee could be injured? Did you implement (or even consider) disciplinary action? If a fatality or an extremely severe injury was sustained, you might lie in bed the following evening telling yourself, over and over, that you had instructed or warned the victim many times about the unsafe behavior. You might try to convince yourself that it just wasn’t your fault, that you need not shoulder any blame and that you could not have done anything else to see that the accident did not occur. You might try, until the wee hours, to absolve yourself of culpability. Yet, somewhere in the darkness or first light of morning, you will probably search deeper and more introspectively and confront the truth. Why did you not take positive actions to alter the dangerous behavior? You had the responsibility and the authority. You could have done something meaningful and decisive, but you failed to do so.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
This one drives me nuts! Within the context of an occupational fatality, this excuse is customarily meant to imply that the death occurred for a good reason. I find this rationalization to be asinine and disgusting, regardless of the intent of its utterance. It is a particularly appalling claim when the victim suffered, such as while slowly being pulled through a tight space in a machine or lingering in pain from extensive burns. Companion assertions, which ignore the cause-and-effect factors directly linked to the fatality, are closely bound to religion. The ostensible line of reason for such assertions is exemplified by “God must have wanted (name of victim) at his table.” Am I being unfairly bold to point out that the victim’s loved ones want him or her at their table? I think not.
“She’s accident prone.”
If a person has been hurt several times, then the underlying causes must be discerned. Has she been hurt so many times because she lacks the necessary skill or knowledge? Is it because the machine, tool or procedure is unsafe? Is it due to physical disability? Is she under the influence of alcohol or other drugs? What exactly is going on? There certainly could be other reasons behind the frequent mishaps. “Accident prone” should never be the sole explanation for why an accident occurred. Get to the root of the problem if this worker has been injured on numerous occasions. Learn from the experience of the victim. For a creative approach, consider how useful she would be as a safety and health committee member.
“It was just bad luck.”
There is such a thing as luck. It is not a complete myth. But it is paradoxical that humans may well cause what is considered to be their luck. The misfortune we leave behind is often a monument to our mistakes. It may have simply been a matter of unfortunate timing that employees were standing in a particular location when the load from the crane fell on them. It could be that, except for that one minute, there was no one under the load. Of course, no one should have been under the load for any length of time, and no load should have fallen. Consider that it may have been good luck – and good luck alone – that no one had previously been injured while under the load of a crane (if such unsafe work practice was a regular occurrence). The prime lesson is simply this: Seeming good luck is commonly a product of meshing preparation and opportunity.
Provided by: Rick Kaletsky, MTI’s Official Safety Consultant