March 14, 2012 | Mark Paradies

Root Cause Tip: Discussion with a Safety Manager

When someone claims that people “not being careful” is a major source of accidents, then I’m almost certain that they aren’t looking for the real, correctable causes of problems.

Here’s a story that illustrates this point.  A safety manager at a large facility once challenged me.  He explained that the only way to get people to do the right thing when it came to safety was to be like a cop.  You need to give them a ticket when they violate the rules.

His proof?  Data.  “Our statistics prove that 90% of our accidents are caused by 5% of the workforce.”  He explained that these accidents were caused by “… careless, unsafe acts.”  He declared that he didn’t need root cause analysis.  All he needed was more cops to hand out tickets.

Then he challenged me:  “What would you do if you were in my shoes?”

I said, “You’re lucky!  The answer is so clear.  Just fire the people who have accidents.  Getting rid of the bad people will cut your safety problems by 90%!”

He seemed taken aback.  He responded, “We’re a union plant.  We can’t fire employees for reporting an accident.”

I suggested that instead of blaming people, a better approach might be to find out what was causing the accidents.  What were the real, fixable root causes of the problems?

Think about it.  Of course, a small percentage of employees were involved in accidents.  Who would work at a facility where large fractions of the employees are maimed or killed each year?  So a small fraction of people being injured doesn’t prove anything.

But what if there are causes of accidents that we can’t see?  What if management could do something about these unseen causes if we could somehow see them?  Would it be worthwhile to try something new to find these hidden causes and stop the accidents?

I know the answer.  You CAN find the root causes and improve performance.  Are you interested?  Then attend a TapRooT® Course and learn:

Root Cause Analysis Tips, Safety
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