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Abandon Goal Zero, Rethink Your Recordables, and Move to Zero Harm
Abandon Goal Zero, Rethink Your Recordables, and Move to Zero Harm

Recently, I chatted live on Facebook with Joe Kopko, risk manager and board-certified safety professional with Hub International. Over the course of an hour, we discussed several safety topics, but we consistently returned to a key theme. Companies must abandon goal zero, re-think their recordables, and move to a zero-harm philosophy and practice.

What is wrong with Goal Zero and a zero-incident culture?

You want your employees to report more and not less. You want your reported incidents to go up. What? That’s right. More reporting improves safety. Goal Zero suppresses reporting rather
than encourages it.

Any organization that uses only OSHA recordable Incidents as their primary measure of safety success is missing the mark. They get really good at managing the recordable number versus genuinely managing the health and safety of their employees. In fact, 2Six Advisors engaged organizations in the past where recordable goals led to reluctancy to take employees to get care. This is not ok.

In less mature organizations, there is a feeling that if our recordable figures are good then we are good. This creates a false sense of security. Absence of injury doesn’t give you a presence of safety. Is your organization a ticking time-bomb due to attention on maintaining a zero-incident culture? If your answer is yes, rethink your reporting process and culture.

How should we rethink our reporting?

Organizations fail on safety because of the numbers, the recordables, and not the people. The luck factor weights the recordable score way too much. Just because you have a low TRIR doesn’t mean you are good company when it comes to safety. There is likely something lurking around the corner.

Just think of it this way. A few years ago, aggregate industry reports showed that recordables were down, but fatalities were up. This is direct evidence that companies are managing the recordable number and not their risk.

Focus reporting not just on actual injuries, but on the events that happen that could have led to an injury even if it did not. For example, maybe there is an unexpected pressure release or drop of a multi-ton object and no one was hurt. Just because an injury did not occur doesn’t mean these events are not worth reporting or investigating. They should be. They must be! We need tracking of the near misses and close calls.

Another place to focus attention, is any time an employee stops work because they recognize something is not quite right. At 2Six, we call these moments stop work actions. The more people pause when they see something not quite right, the less likely you’ll have more serious incidents in the future. We have the data to prove it! Little pauses make big differences. Traditionally, companies are not capturing this data and leveraging it for safety. These are golden opportunities to learn, adjust and build them into your plan for next time.

Narratives about the incidents with the potential for injury and the actual injuries are what is really important, not the recordable number. Ask, what happened? What did you learn? What did you do to fix the issue? What are you actively doing to make sure your employees are aware of the hazard that allowed that injury to occur? Are you testing your team members and assessing the needed change in behavior and/or process? Are you living up to your program design?

Bottomline – If you are serious about safety, don’t sit comfortably on your recordability as it is traditionally defined. It puts your people in danger. Redefine your reporting. Shift from historical views to active indicators. Appreciate inquiry. Treat your employees as the safety experts.

What do you mean when you say treat our employees as the safety experts?

Ask your employees what tasks they avoid? What tasks they dread doing? What do they do that they find easier ways to do it? This will uncover risks through the lens of your employees. Then compare these responses to your last five years of recordables. I bet you’ll see little similarity between their responses and your numbers. Once again proving If you only focus on recordables, you are missing the mark.

When a potential for injury event occurs or worse an actual injury, chat with your employees about what happened instead of disciplining them. Understand their actions and perspectives and then discuss the consequences. Most of the time, their actions were because "we" the employer needs to make a change in our processes, tools, workstations, etc. Employees typically do not take actions to hurt themselves or others purposefully. They are doing the best they can within their limits of control, all while under the stress of timelines, deadlines, quotas, etc. Employees doing the job for hours upon hours each day are your experts. Build rapport and ask the appropriate questions and you have efficiency and safety improvements in no time.

We must invest our time and energy in dialogue with our team members, genuine interaction to understand what they are really doing. We must stop only checking things off on a sheet of paper or in an app on a mobile device. Rapport is essential so your team members speak with you truthfully and ultimately seek you out. This is what will truly lead to zero harm.

Intrigued? Swayed? Aligned? Curious where to start or looking for a collaborative partner to help you move forward to zero harm? Please contact me at 2Six Advisors. I will be happy to chat with you. You can reach me by phone at 1-833-LEADERZ or email me at info@2sixadvisors.com.