Safety Management: A Personal Development Strategy
- Thomas A. Smith (Mocal Inc.)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- March 2011
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 58 - 68
- 2011. American Society of Safety Engineers
- 0 in the last 30 days
- 40 since 2007
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One axiom many SH&E professionals have historically been taught in safety management is that unsafe acts + unsafe conditions + time = an incident. It sounds true and the logic is simple and neat. Yet, as one spends time in safety management it becomes readily apparent that this axiom is, in fact, false.
The theory that unsafe acts cause most industrial accidents grew out of research conducted from 1931 to 1950 by H.W. Heinrich, considered by many to be the father of modern industrial safety.
Heinrich worked in the safety department of Travelers Insurance, where he investigated thousands of industrial incidents and injuries. He concluded that a worker’s failure was at the heart of accidental injuries and that methods of control must be directed toward that failure (Heinrich, 1950, pp. 2, 10). Heinrich said that 85% of industrial accidents were the direct result of workers’ unsafe actions. Safety management has focused its effort to prevent accidents on fixing worker behaviors ever since.
The focus on changing workers’ behaviors as the way to improve the quality of any safety program opened the door for psychology to enter the field of safety management. In the 1960s, the dominant psychological theory in American academics was behaviorism. It was not difficult to link behaviorism with Heinrich’s theory. The marriage of these ideas provided a simple solution to the complex problem of accident prevention.
But by the 1970s, behaviorism proved to have serious flaws and lost its level of dominance with the move in psychology toward cognitivism (Hunt, 1993). Despite this, by the 1980s, companies were embracing behaviorism as the way to prevent employee accidents. Many articles were published suggesting that improving safety was just a matter of motivating workers by applying behavior-ism in some form. Many managers followed suit because this meant the workers had to change, not them.
When some safety managers examined the theory behind this process, they found that behaviorism could explain only "the elementary forms of behavior that make up only part of the psychology of rats, and a very small part of the psychology of human beings" (Hunt, 1993, p. 279). Behaviorism continues to be applied in today workplaces in the form of observing workers and providing positive reinforcement when they are observed working safely.
This article takes an in-depth look at what the word quality means when applied to safety management and how it affects the skills SH&E man-agers need to perform their jobs effectively.
|File Size||1 MB||Number of Pages||11|