Several years ago, BST’s groundbreaking research into serious injury and fatality (SIF) prevention was introduced to the safety community through white papers, public seminars, industry talks, webinars, and other outlets. With the help of seven global companies sharing their data and expertise—including two of the supermajors—we validated our belief that while the Heinrich safety pyramid was a descriptive model (i.e., in each organization, there is a proportionate ratio between first aid cases, medical cases, restricted duty/lost-time cases, and fatalities.), it failed the test as a predictive model (i.e., work to reduce your first aids and recordables and you will not necessarily see a proportionate decline in your LTI’s and fatalities).
Had Heinrich passed the test as a predictive model, the oil and gas industry’s steadily declining OSHA recordable rates would be driving an accompanying decline in fatality rates. Clearly, based on the Oil and Gas Producers (OGP) data, and the data provided by our research partner companies, this proportionate decline was not occurring. Behavioral Science Technology (BST) and our research partners came to the conclusion that only a portion of recordable injuries have the potential to become serious or fatal, so managing your safety intervention systems with a “one size fits all” mentality will not maximize their impact against SIF’s. SIF prevention requires identifying those exposures that have SIF potential; establishing a SIF potential metric; diving deeply into their root causes and precursors; and aligning your safety management systems to intervene accordingly.
Fast forward to today. We’ve worked on attacking SIF’s with over 40 clients in high-exposure industries (including improving overall oil and gas safety) since this research was originally published. We’ve also talked with dozens more that have been addressing this issue on their own, using a variety of methods. Some additional insights have emerged:
The law of unintended consequences applies in spades here. SIF potential exposure metric improvement is not the ultimate goal of SIF prevention. The game is really mitigating SIF precursors, reducing exposure to these types of incidents, and reducing SIF outcomes. The SIF potential exposure metric is one way to keep score, but so are other metrics, such as your investigation/remediation results, and whether your organization is truly moving upstream in the hierarchy of controls to address your SIF precursors.
The gas and oil fields may never be made totally free of SIF potential, but settling for anything less as a goal is unacceptable. Understanding your company’s true exposure to SIF’s, and then addressing the underlying causes with vigor and commitment are your primary paths to get there.
To learn more about our research on SIFs, download the white paper New Findings on Serious Injuries and Fatalities.