Safety Rx — Prescription Before Diagnosis Leads to an Unhealthy Safety Process

June 10 2018
By: Charles J. Douros

Think about the last time you visited your personal physician. Chances are, your appointment began with a discussion about the signs and symptoms of what ails you, followed by a conversation about when it began, what you were or weren't doing when you first noticed it and whether you have experienced anything like it in the past. Your doctor listened intently and hopefully took notes, which then lead to an exam and maybe a test or two, culminating in a diagnosis, and only then some prescribed treatment. This sensible approach in the doctor-patient relationship is an excellent roadmap for safety professionals to follow when trying to identify what to do when opportunities present themselves in the workplace.


Imagine if the doctor entered the exam room and greeted you with a prescription in-hand before speaking to you about your symptoms, examining or diagnosing you. What confidence would you have that the doctor is correctly treating your ailment? Would you be comfortable filling the prescription and beginning treatment?

Sadly, companies can make this same mistake. Just as a doctor would never prescribe medicine or begin a treatment plan before a thoughtful diagnosis, the best companies always assess the relative health of their own culture before deciding what initiatives matter most and how to measure them.

Companies that prescribe performance measurements before first identifying "what healthy looks like," will likely find themselves measuring the wrong things for the wrong reasons without a clear understanding of why they're doing so.

We find the most successful companies consider their prior state, assess the relative health of their current state, and pay attention to those signs and symptoms leading them to believe something is wrong with their safety process before diagnosing their problem and prescribing treatment, in much the same way as doctor and patient. Anything less would be safety malpractice.

Charles J. Douros

Charles J. Douros is senior consultant for ProAct Safety. Organizations in every major industry have engaged Charles to guide them on their journey to achieve and sustain excellence in safety performance, organizational development and cultural. He is a prolific writer of organizational leadership and safety content and has authored articles for a variety of publications including; EHS Today, BLR, Safety Decisions Magazine, ISHN, eHow, Examiner, CBS News, Nation's Restaurant News, Career Tracker and others. Charles can be reached at 936.273.8705 or

Subscribe to our newsletter