Professional Safety - July 2014
By: Shawn M. Galloway
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|
|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
Tool and Equipment Use
Personal Protective Equipment
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.
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.