February 04 2018
By: Terry L. Mathis
Accidents occur at the end of a series of events. Accident investigations tend to look for root causes assuming that addressing them is the elegant solution to prevent future accidents. More and more research indicates the most effective ways to prevent accidents may have little or nothing to do with root cause. I label these non-causal solutions "control points." A control point is an opportunity in the causal chain of events to derail the path in which it is going.
A control point can be just before an accident, or significantly upstream. The further upstream it is, the more difficult it may be to identify and to convince workers to exercise control. For example, if a driver moves into an intersection when the light turns green and gets t-boned by another vehicle, the root causes of the accident are almost completely within the control of the driver running the red light. However, the driver of the struck vehicle does have a control point by looking down the street before pulling out into the intersection.
Too many organizations fixate on root cause and miss opportunities to avert accidents. Preventing accidents should be the main focus of safety efforts, not a side effect.
Terry Mathis, Founder and retired CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.