How many precursor incidents did your site investigate last month? How many accidents did you prevent?
A precursor incident is an incident that could have been worse. If another Safeguard had failed, if the sequence had been slightly different, or if your luck had been worse, the incident could have been a major accident, a fatality, or a significant injury. These incidents are sometimes called “hipos” (High Potential Incidents) or “potential SIFs” (Significant Injury or Fatality).
I’ve never talked to a senior manager that thought a major accident was acceptable. Most claim they are doing EVERYTHING possible to prevent them. But many senior managers don’t require advanced root cause analysis for precursor incidents. Incidents that didn’t have major consequences get classified as a low consequence event. People ask “Why?” five times and implement ineffective corrective actions. Sometimes minor consequence incidents (but high potential consequence incidents) don’t even get reported. Management is letting precursor incidents continue to occur until a major accident happens.
Perhaps this is why I have never seen a major accident that didn’t have precursor incidents. That’s right! There were multiple chances to identify what was wrong and fix it BEFORE a major accident.
That’s why I ask the question …
“How many precursor incidents did your site investigate last month?”
If you are doing a good job identifying, investigating, and fixing precursor incidents, you should prevent major accidents.
Sometimes it is hard to tell how many major accidents you prevented. But the lack of major accidents will keep your management out of jail, off the hot seat, and sleeping well at night.
That’s why it’s important to make sure that senior management knows about the importance of advanced root cause analysis and how it should be applied to precursor incidents to save lives, improve quality, and keep management out of trouble. You will find that the effort required to do a great investigation with effective corrective actions isn’t all that much more work than the poor investigation that doesn’t stop a future major accident.