Irecently wrote about poor – very poor – excuses for accidents or near accidents. Here are some more beauties that should never be uttered. The teaching moment would be lost.


He was careless.

In what way was he careless? Did he fail to put the guard back on a machine? Did he decide to forgo wearing the required personal protective equipment? Did he hold the tool incorrectly? Did he run through the plant or down the stairs?

“Careless” should never be the sole cause written on an accident report. In some cases, an employee is injured as a result of tripping on a loose item on the floor. An authority figure wants to invoke carelessness as the reason and let the matter rest at that. Other individuals may want to add that he didn’t look where he was going, an explanation that could have some legitimate merit. Yet, if an employee trips on a piece of pipe that was on the floor of a main aisle, other factors should be examined. For instance, how did the piece get on the floor? Was it dropped? If so, did the person who dropped it know? Why wasn’t it picked up by the person who dropped it? Did it fall from some structure above? Had it been carried in an unsafe manner? Does the employer provide a regular place to store such pieces?

Another case comes to mind. An employee sustained a severe eye injury when a bungee cord that he was handling snapped. The cord stayed intact; it did not break. Far too many employers would simply suggest that the employee was careless and should be more careful. That would be the end of the so-called investigation.

At least three key, and very specific, aspects of the accident screamed out for review. Why weren’t safety glasses (ANSI-approved for industrial impact) worn? Why wasn’t the cord used and stretched in a position parallel to the victim’s chest so that, even if it snapped or recoiled, it would whip to the sides rather than toward the employee? Was there a different type of device that could have been used? To have simply labeled this injury an accident being the result of a careless worker would have shut the door on the step-by-step evaluation that resulted in the implementation of solid abatement methods.


That’s the price of progress.

Apparently, this is meant to reflect the misguided perception that in order to progress in the industrial arena there must be an understanding there will be some losses (including in the form of injuries or illnesses). I remember a rubber mill operator who was missing three fingers, each of which had been amputated in the in-running rolls in separate incidents. He joked that losing three fingers in 30 years (one every 10) wasn’t too bad! It was as if three lost fingers were a fair price to pay for continued employment at a decent wage. Sure, a factory-type job may present more inherent hazards than an office job, but there absolutely should not be an automatic acceptance of pain and disability just because the person works with machinery.


It was just one of those things.

Exactly what things do you have in mind? Is the idea that whatever bad thing occurred was unavoidable? That is the common inference. It seems that the speaker wants to convey the ostensibly profound observation that such accidents are bound to happen. In the overwhelming majority of accident scenarios, however, a thorough investigation will bring to light two simple facts: the accident was reasonably predictable and more could have been done to preclude or significantly lessen the chances of the occurrence.

“It was just one of those things” is sometimes used for clearly avoidable accidents, such as finger and hand injuries resulting from the hazards of moving machinery. Other examples include electrical shock, burns from chemicals and falls from one level to another. Therefore, even where practical abatement methods should have been obvious, the assumptions seem to be that fate intervened and cannot be controlled.

To be fair, sometimes the statement is not totally absurd. For instance, an employee might turn or move a body part in just the wrong way. Nevertheless, what may be learned from the accident investigation still has value. If a person banged a hand against a machine frame, the quoted expression might come into play. It is quite difficult to ensure that every single employee will move or steady his or her body appropriately at all times.

Still, this is not the end of the issue. Is there a problem with the employee’s perceptions of space and objects related to the job task? In a more focused vein, is the employee’s work station large enough and properly configured? Can the employee be taught to use the space in a manner that decreases the chances of injurious contact? Did the employee mistakenly look away at a critical time and, if so, why?