The Push for Zero
In recent times there has been the emergence of a new philosophy in safety which has at its heart the concept that all workplace accidents are preventable. To promote this, schemes and programmes have been developed that use the word zero in their title. The word zero is very evocative in safety as it’s an absolute term and there is not too much in how risk is managed to create a safer working environment that is absolute.
It is not just in the realm of occupational health and safety that we are seeing zero used, it also applies to other areas where accidents have a significant impact such as in road safety. Some road safety plans have adopted the zero concept but the use of this term could be misleading so it’s important to understand at the context of its use.
Unfortunately humans are all too predictable and it is certain that there will be future serious workplace accidents and these will generally be from organisations that:
- are committed to good safety performance but their top management actually don’t fully understand what is really going on under the surface, or
- may not be as committed to good safety performance as they think they are and rely on luck and gambling to an extent to avoid serious workplace accidents.
When the accident investigations for these future events are completed, the same usual causative suspects will come to the fore; lack of management commitment, failure of procedures, a lack of communications, reduction in resources, ineffective verification processes and so on. These organisations will not have learnt the lessons from previous workplace accidents elsewhere and will be making the same mistakes as others in the past.