In our experience, most companies define safety as "going home the same you came to work." While healthy and unharmed is certainly the state we want each of our employees to be in when they leave work, this definition fails to account for the organization's responsibility for ensuring that result comes to fruition. It also puts the safety focus on outcomes (e.g., whether someone was injured or not) rather than on controlling the environment that puts people at risk for harm.
When we focus exclusively on injury rates, we get a very narrow view of what the state of risk actually is for our employees. We know the number and types of injuries sustained, but we don't know why they happened, what contributed to at-risk behaviors, if behavior was even a factor, or the likelihood similar injuries are likely to happen again.
A better definition of safety is "controlling exposure for self and others." Here the focus is on exposure, or the state of the workforce's vulnerability to harm. Exposure is any hazard, whether operational, cultural, or organizational, that puts people at risk of injury. When we focus on exposure, we get a clearer view the risks workers are facing and how we can control or eliminate those risks upstream of injury. In other words, a safety system that targets exposure is looking forward while one that solely tracks injury is only capable of reacting to the past.
Our white paper Moving Beyond Behavior explores how companies are controlling exposure to create injury-free workplaces. We discuss the measures you can implement to reduce risk for your people and ensure hazards are removed from the path of work. Moving Beyond Behavior covers:
Move your safety system beyond behavior. Download the white paper.