A Transformational Pareto Analysis: Finding Focus

Professional Safety - July 2014
By: Shawn M. Galloway
Printable Version

Vilfredo Pareto was an important Italian economist who, in 1906, made a famous observation that twenty percent of the population owned eighty percent of the property in Italy. Joseph Juran later referred to this as "The 80-20 Rule" or the "Pareto Principle". Others commonly refer to this as "the significant few and trivial many".

Safety professionals are held accountable to produce improvement in their safety performance and culture. Each year, as goals are created, budgets are set and actions are determined, what data determine what does and does not become a strategic priority? Most organizations experience minimal sustainable improvement with new safety programs, incentives and training classes. Rather than searching for the new thing to do, drive improvement with the use of data. Most leaders learn a very valuable lesson in strategic planning: trust data and hold a low, or at least cautious, opinion of opinions.

Pareto analysis should not be a new concept for safety professionals or engineers. This cause and effect approach has helped organizations determine how to classify safety injuries (e.g., severity, body part injured, type of injury), prioritize systems issues and, to some degree, focus safety efforts.

With the ever-increasing need to become more effective and efficient, identifying where to focus safety efforts, reactively and proactively, has become one of the most important decisions an operation can make. Most organizations commonly capture information on key variables (e.g., time of day, day of week, tenure) during injury investigations. Obviously, with more thorough post- and pre-incident data, the trends in injuries or exposure to risk can be easier identified.

Generally, clients pursuing this type of analysis first identify the holes in their data-collection process. A recent Oil and Gas operator found in most variable trends, an unfortunate spike in the "Not Specified" category within many variables analyzed. If "Not Specified" is the largest element in a trend category, it may not be desirable, but it is insightful! Certainly the goal isn't to become perfect at post-incident data collection before refocusing efforts on preventing them, but most successful clients capture much more information proactively than reactively.

Sample Transformational Variables

Time of Day Day of Week Week of Month/Year
Month of Year Shift Number of Hours Worked
Location Department Routine vs. Non-Routine Task
Months of Experience with Task Tenure With Company Actively Engaged in Safety Activities
Machinery Involved Weather Temperature
Specified Influences Age Occupation
Not Specified Severity Days Worked In a Row

ProAct Safety has reviewed and analyzed millions of injuries and accidents for thousands of organizations throughout the world. Most of these organizations were seeking expert insight into the preventability of their events, with the goal of determining which areas to focus their culture and risk-reduction efforts on to best prevent future events, and to understand the elements that influence risk-taking in the organization.

Identifying trends in commonly-tracked variables should be a mandatory exercise for injury analysis on an annual basis, at minimum. However, there should also be a next step: determining prevention. All accidents have, at least, a conditional and behavioral prevention point. If a conditional focus would produce the greatest returns, what data will determine and prioritize the conditions that, if addressed, yield the greatest potential? Do you focus first on conditional hazards or the ones that create barriers to safe behavior? What data presents the greatest insight into exposure rate of conditions and potential severity of injury?

It has been easy to jump to a behavioral focus; many have. Too often we forget behaviors cannot be the root cause of an injury, but we often stop there because the next question (why?) cannot be answered. If behaviors are seen as an opportunity to prevent an injury or incident, are they mandatory or discretionary behaviors and does one type have greater weight on the prevention of injuries with higher severity?

If it is determined the majority of injuries can be prevented with a focus on mandatory behaviors, already covered in rules, policies and procedures, a Behavior-Based Safety type of process isn't your answer. Seek out approaches to strengthen the capabilities of leaders at all levels to enforce the rules and seek out insight into the reason for deviation.

Eventually, high-performing organizations realize more rules rarely work and tend to demotivate cultures. You can't guard everything and not all risks can be mitigated. An evolution to seek out which discretionary behaviors and what influences them, would present the greatest return within personal safety efforts of all levels of severity becomes a common focus.

Sample of Discretionary Behaviors for Transformational Analysis

Body Mechanics
  • Alignment
  • Extension
  • Pace
  • Pre-Job Inspection and Warnings About Risks
  • Barricades and Signs Around Hazards
Body Position
  • Line of Fire
  • Eyes on Path/Work
  • Footing
  • Keep Work Area Clean and Free of Litter
  • Put All Tools, Equipment and Supplies Where They Belong
Tool and Equipment Use
  • Select the Proper Tool/Equipment For The Job
  • Make Sure the Tool/Equipment is in Good Condition
Personal Protective Equipment
  • Eyes/Face
  • Head
  • Hands
  • Lungs

All organizations will inevitably reach a point of diminished returns with safety efforts when using the same data to drive improvement. As injury prevention efforts evolve, so does the data used to focus it. Determining where and when to concentrate your efforts and then moving to a focus of precise performance elements of the organization will provide the next level in safety advancement. Four recent client experiences highlight the power of performing a Transformational Pareto AnalysisSM.

Construction Case Study: An infrastructure construction client came to realize 70% of their injuries occurred when employees climbed on or off pieces of equipment. One behavioral precaution became the primary focus of individual responsibility: maintaining three points of contact at all times when ascending and descending.

The CEO charged the organization to focus the majority of attention and effort on becoming perfect on this issue. The company experienced and sustained an 80 percent reduction in recordable rates within a two-year period. This level of laser-like focus, along with an improvement in the collection of data that provided insight into determining what would hinder an employees' ability to take this precaution, helped the company better prioritize their injury prevention efforts.

Manufacturing Case Study: A new executive of a manufacturing organization realized a key location lacked focus and engaged ProAct Safety to perform an analysis on commonly tracked variables and prevention opportunities. A presentation was made to employees on all three shifts explaining the findings. Audience members came to learn 31% of injuries occurred on Thursdays; 47% occurred between 02:00 and 06:00 and 08:00 and 10:00; ages 22 to 30 represented 34% of the injuries; and one - three years and five - ten years on the job made up 54% of the injuries.

Additionally, there were four precautions that represented 85% of prevention opportunities. By the time the third group was to hear this message, word had already gotten around and the audience knew this information before it could be presented. This level of attention contributed to a 60% reduction on injury rates and laid the groundwork for future advanced processes to sustain the momentum.

Energy Case Study: An energy client operating throughout the United Kingdom and Europe participated in a workshop with their major contractors for a very large pilot project. The company was already among the best in the industry in injury-prevention; however, it was spending millions annually on equipment damage. Their analysis determined 59% of equipment damage costs could be prevented if individuals on location would drive in the center of the road, pass in designated passing area, and perform a pre-trip inspection and discussion with the other parties involved.

This exercise and resulting focused safety efforts led to the project being awarded the "Safest Project in the history of the, company and has become a best-practice on all projects. Coincidentally, conversations with multiple contractors after completion of the project identified the energy company has been recognized by the other major contractors as the best and safest to work with, due to the focus in safety and corresponding effectiveness in communication and cooperation.

Federal Government Case Study: An agency asked ProAct Safety to assist in developing a comprehensive strategy for safety excellence. Immediately after completing the important steps of determining vision and values of excellence, leaders set about to identify precise data to drive the strategic agenda forward. An exhaustive analysis was performed on injuries, vehicle accidents, equipment damage and current cultural perceptions and behaviors.

Findings identified 65% of injuries and 53% of vehicle accidents occurred with individuals 0-2 years in their role; the Leadership Safety IQSM (proprietary measurement of Leaders' knowledge of important safety systems, information, program, etc.) was at 71%, perception scores of the most important 10 perceptions were at 74%, and behavioral observations of employees and management identified precise behaviors that provided insight into the experiences driving current perceptions.

Following this, a workshop was led to help identify the gaps presented in the analysis, compared to the aforementioned vision of safety excellence and ultimately led to the completion and successful execution of a five-year strategy with the first two year's priorities and supporting initiatives focused on:

  1. Improving Hiring, Onboarding & Core Competency Processes
  2. Safety Culture Excellence Communication Plan For Alignment of Leadership
  3. Stop Work Authorization
  4. A very specific and focused Lean Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) process to provide efficiency and focus within existing BBS methodologies
  5. Implementation of a more effective incident management tool for data reporting and analysis

Before performing the sample types of analysis outlined in this article, be cautious on how wide-spread to use the findings to drive the creation of the corporate strategic agenda. It is recommended that this analysis along with several others be performed at a higher level first for the necessary profound knowledge and more effective engagement with executive leadership, but also at an individual business, plant or group level for specific focus and certainty of value-add in choosing what to do and not do for the customers of safety.

Peter Drucker, the late management consultant and author, wisely pointed out, "Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing." Without clear focus, it is easy to get wrapped up in executing improvement efficiently and be working on precisely the wrong things. Humorously, Drucker also believed, "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all." In seeking an answer to the never-ending question of how to improve safety, the answer is rarely more effort, but rather better and more focused effort.

Shawn M. Galloway is the CEO of ProAct Safety and co-author of several bestselling books. As an award-winning consultant, adviser, leadership coach and keynote speaker, he has helped hundreds of organizations within every major industry to improve safety strategy, culture, leadership and engagement. He is also the host of the highly acclaimed weekly podcast series Safety Culture Excellence®.
For more information, call (936) 273-8700 or email info@ProActSafety.com.

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