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Thread: What's Going On Here, Fact or Fantasy?

  1. #1 What's Going On Here, Fact or Fantasy? 
    Time Lord zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    I had a chance recently to sit in on a safety conference hosted by consultants from Dupont. In the first minute I was struck by a claim they make: "Dupont believes that all accidents are preventable". I ended up thinking about this for the rest of the speeches and to tell you the truth it took my concentration away from the remaining speakers.

    Now I can understand that in theory it probably rings true but just seems to be so unrealistic. I thought it bordered on fantasy, akin to believing in leprechauns or fairies. This battle cry of theirs is accepted by 95% of senior managements for companies they consult for. It actually seems to work in establishing or building safety cultures in businesses around the world, IOW's Dupont has experienced much success establishing/selling this belief.

    I'm sure every accident has a cause so if every cause was eliminated then no more accidents. What are the odds of every cause being eliminated? Is it even remotely possible to achieve? They call it a belief so right away I figured they can't prove it although they certainly displayed several graphs and data that show results being favorable. Thoughts....


    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    While your instincts are correct, the slogan, if adapted as part of the culture can dramatically reduce accidents.

    I watched something similar while I was in the Army. During the late 1980s, we routinely lost or critically injured Soldiers druing training exercises. The thinking was more akin to "shxt happens" or "the cost of doing business." Other things you'd hear were "it the way the Army has always done it." In some cases it was simply darn hard to get the most senior NCOs and officers who'd lost hundred of Soldiers cutting their teeth in the Jungles of SE Asia excited about the posibility of loosing one or two.

    I was too junior to understand the leaderships changing view, but those attitudes changed dramatically during the late 80s and 90s with a huge launch of safety awareness. Adopting and adapting safety methods from industry and Army Aviation, we started hearing the slogan your hearing now. The younger officers and NCOS started attending risk managements courses and it became incorporated into the professional development courses. There was a big push to teach Soldiers about managing their own risk--whether that be the risk of taking a long drive after a hard days work to get a shot of leg, or taking an unnecessary risk in their day-to-day military job. Accountability systems slowly came on line--now all commanders are required to sign risk assessments and take steps to reduce risk. If the risk remained too high, they had to get approval from their boss--either way it was an official record. Those records were consolidated and often studied by special safety teams to look for best practices and if an accident still happened reviewed for systemic problems of leadership, procedures, training, maintenance or equipment problems. Related and parallel programs were developed for Soldiers to report equipment safety problems, message systems developed to quickly notify the field, and accelerated programs to get equipment modified or redesigned to improve safety. While it didn't eliminate accidents entirely, and it took over a decade to put into place, it made a huge difference probably dropping accidents by 90% or more. Most of the same techniques were also relatively easy to translate into combat operations.

    Embrace it...it's probably 90% accurate and really works as an organizational mindset.


    Meteorologist/Naturalist & Retired Soldier
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    It doesn't matter if it's not technical, 100%, gold-plated truth.

    The simple truth is that industrial and vehicle accidents are as near 100% preventable or avoidable as makes no difference.

    Vehicles are the classic example. Imagine if every single car and truck was maintained as described in its handbook. Then imagine that every single driver of these cars and trucks was sober, obeyed all speed limits, traffic lights, license conditions, hazard warnings and road rules, adjusted their driving to suit road and weather conditions and took a break often enough to avoid fatigue. The only accidents left would be those caused by sneezes, heart attacks, leg cramps, insects/spiders within the car, birds and other animals outside the car, tree branches falling because of ice or heat, landslides, debris on the road or road/bridge collapses. What % of current accidents are caused now by those things alone without one of the avoidable vehicle and driver ones also contributing?

    Similar things apply in industry. From a management point of view, the fact that many accidents are caused in industry by workers ignoring safety rules is just a fact of life that good management can deal with. A management that shrugs it's shoulders and says "What can you do? People do what people do." is avoiding its responsibilities. Initial training, warning signs, regular training - and rewarding compliant behaviour as well as penalising unsafe behaviour makes a huge difference in death and injury rates. You want to walk onto a building site without hard hats and safety boots? Find another place to walk, you're not welcome here. Train your supervisors and site managers to enforce your standards and sack or demote them if they fail to do so.

    All you have to do is look at how death and injury rates in mining and building industries have declined over the last 50 years in advanced economies to see how well these approaches work.
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    Time Lord zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Embrace it...it's probably 90% accurate and really works as an organizational mindset.
    So you're saying that it's tantamount to a little white lie, zero accidents is not possible, but their credo will reduce them. It's a belief based on a fallacy, beneficial but totally unrealistic when compared to life in general. The intent is to develop the safety culture.

    In the perfect scenario there would be no causes, therefore no accidents. My pragmatic mind sees this as impossible, however the result justifies the unreasonable. This is too eerily similar to religions of faith for my liking but I think workers going home at night alive outweighs my personal opinion of the method. It appears that sometimes you just have to let it go to acquire the desired result. I still don't believe it but I think I'm going to have to accept it.
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    So you're saying that it's tantamount to a little white lie, zero accidents is not possible, but their credo will reduce them. It's a belief based on a fallacy, beneficial but totally unrealistic when compared to life in general. The intent is to develop the safety culture.
    ....and prevent the vast majority of accidents.
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