October 07 2018
By: Terry L. Mathis
Accidents can be caused by workers doing something they didn't intend to do, or by failing to do something they did intend to do. Thus, we have volumes on the subject of "Human Error" and how to classify it into multiple categories. This thinking ignores the other category of accidents that I call "Low-Probability Risks." These are actions that workers take deliberately, not through error or omission, that result in injuries. Many tasks have low-probability risks involved with them and workers may have taken these minute risks multiple times with no negative results. Such actions become self-reinforcing, especially if they save time.
Organizations trying to continuously improve in safety address the errors and omissions but sometimes fail to move on to low-probability risks. This is the primary reason I have found when safety results hit a glass ceiling. Many clients have asked how workers can work for years accident-free then have an accident, supposedly doing the same things the same way the whole time. This concept of low-probability risks is the answer.
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.