April 6, 2009 | Barb Carr

Accident Prone Employees?

(This column is a reprint of Mark Paradies’ Editor Letter from the February TapRooT® Friends & Experts eNewsletter.)

I was reading an article in a daily e-mail publication and an entry caught my eye. It said:

Safety experts believe that about 20% of workers cause 80% of accidents.

It then went on to say that these “accident prone” employees were most likely:

* Irresponsible, aggressive, and easily distractible people

* Stoic “tough guys,” who work through any injury or illness and consider it a sign of weakness to do otherwise

* Risk-takers, who think accidents happen to other people and who are often young and male

* Angry people, who let emotions distract them from their work because, as the old saying goes, they are “so angry they can’t see straight”

* Shy workers, who don’t want to draw attention to themselves by reporting an incident or near miss

* Tired people, including shiftworkers, whose lifestyles don’t give them enough energy or alertness to work safely

* Disinterested workers, who frankly don’t give a damn about the job and simply don’t care enough to be careful

Wow! The article made me stop in my tracks and think:

First, who are these “safety experts” who say that 80% of the accidents are caused by 20% of the workers and this makes them “accident prone”?

Of course a small percentage of workers cause most of the accidents. How could it be any other way? If 100% of the workforce was involved in accidents, everyone would be injured!

Because only a small percentage of people are injured, people start thinking that they just had “bad luck.” But this isn’t right either.

The small percentage of employees being involved in accidents (“causing the accidents” as the article claims) is simply a result of modern safety systems that keep most of the employees safe most of the time.

Second, where could anyone get reliable statistics about the types of employees involved in accidents across the country that are grouped into the categories suggested above? I’ve never seen this type of report from the National Safety Council, OSHA, or the Bureau of Labor Statistics. My guess is that someone made this stuff up – which could be why the data was completely un-sourced in the article.

What can you learn from this article?

1. Don’t believe everything you read about safety. Look for the sources of statistics. “Experts believe” isn’t a good enough reference.

2. Think about statistics that are presented in articles. If they don’t seem right, they probably aren’t. Remember, over 50% of all statistics are made up (like this one).

3. Yes, a small percentage of employees are involved in accidents. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad people. Stop looking to blame people (who caused this?) and start looking for system causes that you can correct to improve performance.

If you need a systematic process to find the human performance and equipment related causes of accidents and incidents, attend a TapRooT® Course and learn to apply the TapRooT® System to develop effective corrective actions to stop accidents and improve performance.

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