May 28, 2008 The Pump Handle 1Comment

How do you best teach workers about safety?  How do you change people’s attitudes? 

The Workers’ Comp board in Ontario, Cananda, and many safety instructors along with them, believes that gruesome pictures or videos work best.  Like driving by the scene of a car accident, it is hard not to look.  Perhaps by showing a horrific accident, workers will be more careful or take more precautions.  The Ontario Worker Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) produced a series of five short (30 second) videos for different industries each showing an “accident” which occurs and then saying how this could have been prevented. 

These memorable videos cover the following topics:

A slip and fall involving a restaurant cook (UTube video link); An explosion involving a high-rise welder (UTube video link); A fall of material on a forklift operator (UTube video link); electrical safety (UTube video link); and a fall off a ladder involving a retail store worker (UTube video link).

The WSIB’s approach is that “There really are no “accidents,” that they could have been prevented by management.  This has provoked a lot of comments and a number of video responses.  Many of the commenters have objected to the message that management is responsible for these tragedies suggesting that they happened because workers were careless. 

Safety professionals know that all “accidents” have multiple causes and our job is to figure out how they could have been prevented.  This is done by root cause analysis.  We ask why again and again until we understand the root causes and all the contributing factors.  If a worker was careless, why was that? 

  • Were they exhausted from working a 12 hour shift? 
  • Were they under a lot of pressure from their supervisor to increase production? 
  • Was the crew understaffed because workers have been laid off or called in sick or because of injuries? 

By understanding the facts behind the acts we can better figure out how to prevent such problems in the future.  No one goes to work expecting or wanting to be hurt, but workers are human and humans make mistakes.  Our job is to figure out how to make sure that when workers make mistakes they do not cause serious injuries or fatalities. 

These videos are trying to get people to think about prevention and they certainly have stimulated a lot of discussion.  It is easy to blame these incidents on carelessness.  The more difficult, and more important, job is figuring out what could have been done to prevent them. 

What do you think?  Add your comments to the YouTube debate.  It is an important discussion to continue.

“Alice Hamilton” has been involved in worker safety and health training and advocacy for more than two decades.

One thought on “Safety Videos Spark Debate about “Accidents”

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