Determining whether an injury or exposure has the potential to be serious or fatal is a highly important step. Unfortunately, it is also a step not commonly followed by many organizations. In a recent study on serious injury and fatality prevention conducted by BST and ORC Mercer Worldwide, the importance of taking this step was illuminated. In analyzing the extensive data provided by participant companies, the study found that only 21% of the incidents classified as minor had serious injury and fatality (SIF) potential. The other incidents are no doubt still
important, but they require a different prevention strategy.
Consider two incidents that have produced the same outcome, a broken wrist. Incident A finds an employee who stumbled and fell while walking across a paved walkway, fracturing a wrist in bracing for the impact. Incident B finds an employee who reached into an auger that moved unexpectedly, caught the employee‘s hand, and fractured their wrist. These two incidents have completely different potential, but identical outcomes. If Incident A were to happen 100 more times, it is very unlikely to result in an outcome much worse than a fractured wrist. If Incident B were to happen 100 more times, there is a very good chance there would be loss of limb or life.
It is important to also note that there are particular types or work activities with higher levels of potential for serious injuries or fatalities. Working at heights, working in and around mobile equipment, working on equipment that needs to first be de-energized, and working in a confined space are examples where there is potential for a more serious outcome if there is variation in the system.