What is Safety and Risk?

November 10, 2019 posted by

Let’s talk about safety. A lot of people come
to Avatar seeking help with their safety programs, safety plans and improving their safety results.
Often their title includes the word safety: safety director, vice president of safety.
But when I challenge them and say “What does safety really mean?” They’re often perplexed.
They actually lock up and say, “well it means no accidents or maintaining compliance with
regulations, or I’m not getting in trouble.” The reality is safety is ellusive. Safety
is defined as freedom from risk. And we’re never really free from risk. In fact the best
we can do is either remove or reduce the amount of risk we face. And so safety becomes this
illusive goal that we work towards, but our eye really needs to be focused squarely on
mitigating risk. What can we do to remove or reduce risk in the workplace? There’s really
a five step model that’s absolutely the foundation to everything we do. It begins with avoiding
risk in the first place. Like mom said, if you don’t want to get burned, then don’t play
with matches. Just avoid that risk. Sometimes we can’t avoid the risk, but we have that
risk in the workplace, sometimes we can eliminate that risk. We can remove a machine, we can
change a process, or we can even take out an unsafe driver. By removing or eliminating
the risk we mitigate our chances at having an accident or collision or injury. The third
stage of risk management is to engineer the risk away. Think of anti-lock breaks or seatbelts.
These are ways that we can engineer away the risk, perhaps make it a little more dummy
proof, protect ourselves from our own bad behavior if you will. The fourth step is human
factors. This is where Avatar spends a vast majority of it’s time and energy. We try to
influence how people perform their jobs, how they do their jobs and what we can do to intervene
with those unsafe behaviors that we know lead to collisions and injuries. We can select
more efficient, effective, safe, risk avoiding kinds of people , we can educate them on various
ways they could get hurt, we could train them on the specific skills they need to perform
their job safely. Or, we could support their on-going job performance through motivation,
leadership feedback loops performance management systems to keep them aware of the risks that
they face. All of these fall into the category of human factors and this is where we spend
most of our energy. I said that this was a five step model, and there is – The fifth
step actually is insurance. We refer to it as “Transfer.” If I have risk and you have
risk and he or she has risks over there, we can all throw some money in a pot together
and when one of us has an accident they’ll be money there to pay for that claim, so we
share that risk with others. That’s the least effective way to manage risk and the most
expensive way. And so beginning at the bottom to avoid it, eliminate it, engineer it, turn
your attention to human factors and then finally you buy insurance. If you need help, if you
want to improve the performance of your safety program. If you want fewer collisions and
injuries. If you want to save on your cost of loss – Avatar can help you on the fourth
level with human factors with human performance.

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