The incidents that you hear about – oil rig explosions, mine collapses, e coli outbreaks – are only the tip of the iceberg. How many smaller incidents also occur? Safety professionals have long used a concept called the safety pyramid. The idea is that for every occupational death, there were 10 injuries that resulted in permanent disability, 100 that resulted in hospitalization, 1000 that resulted in first aid or medical treatment and 10000 where someone almost got hurt. (You’ll see various numbers in the pyramid, but you get the general idea.)
The concept of collecting information on these close calls and minor injuries is two-fold. First, you can learn something from them and take action to correct situations before the more serious event occurs. Second, simply having a program where you do this means that you are creating a culture where it is considered not only acceptable, but even an obligation, to admit problems, and to then take action to improve. You may not prevent all catastrophic events since there are many causes of those. But you sure have a better chance if people are proactively thinking about what could go wrong and taking action on it.
SAP has a new Incident Management application in EHS Management that enables companies to collect information on all levels of incidents from small to large, as well as all types (people, environment, security, equipment, etc.) Companies who take this approach are then able to find trends that indicate systemic problems and take action to correct those problems before something catastrophic happens. To be even more proactive, companies can have their employees make safety observations and immediately correct anything that they find wrong. This can start to create a safety culture, where everyone feels accountable and able to prevent incidents.