Accountability Starts At The Top

By Sam Reese, CEO, Vistage Worldwide (from

Accountability — that quality of personal responsibility and ownership — can be difficult to establish and easy to lose.

It’s also more elusive than you might think in today’s business world. A Harvard Business Review survey shows almost 50 percent of managers are terrible at accountability. That’s not surprising, because accountability isn’t something you can do halfway. No executive or business can be “sort of accountable.” It requires a commitment from the top and adoption throughout the organization.

The term “accountability” often carries the negative connotation of the person who is to blame when something goes wrong. I see it differently: It’s the ability of a person to provide focus on an initiative, make the necessary decisions and garner support from their organization to achieve success.

Accountability must be built into a corporate culture. It’s in the operating rhythm of how high-performing companies work. Everyone must trust that their colleagues will complete projects and to a high degree of quality for everyone to be successful.

Let’s look at some ways to make accountability part of your business world:

  1. Be reliable and consistent. Do what you say you’re going to do and expect the same of others. The path to accountability is through consistency, predictability and follow-up. As leaders, we need to be accountable in terms of providing interim guidance throughout the project and not just at the end.
  2. Communicate your expectations clearly. Don’t assume someone can fill in the gaps. For people to succeed, they need to know what the successful completion of a project looks like. This includes key metrics, dates, costs, etc. Give team members the opportunity to ask questions to get a full understanding before starting their projects. It’s then that they can take full ownership.
  3. Empower employees. Once everyone understands the expected results, they should be empowered to get the job done. They should have adequate resources and structure to allow them to succeed. They shouldn’t have to circumvent process or continuously fight upstream as a means to achieve successful outcomes.
  4. Foster collaboration and mutual accountability. Ensure everyone knows what major initiatives are on each other’s plates. It’s amazing how effective a business can be when people talk to each other and hold each other accountable.
  5. Create a learning environment. It would be nice if everyone completed everything right on the first attempt. That’s just not realistic. Rather than overreact when someone drops the ball, try to create an environment where people learn from mistakes. Likewise, take responsibility for your own decisions, good or bad, to model the behavior.

In the end, accountability can’t feel forced. It must be authentic, consistent and organic. It’s not something that you can just mandate and it happens. While holding others accountable, you as a leader have to be accountable as well. Accountability comes when a workplace operates as a high-functioning team, where colleagues understand their expectations and help and depend on each other. In these environments, you can see constant progress taking place in a positive, predictable way that your followers can get behind (e.g., get healthy, be happier, become more productive, travel more, live better).


About the Author

Sam Reese is CEO of Vistage Worldwide. Prior to his tenure with Vistage, Reese served as CEO and board member for the Miller Heiman business consulting organization. He has held senior positions at Corporate Express, Kinko’s Inc. and British Telecom. Reese holds a business administration degree and has completed various executive education programs.

Suicide By Job

Crime scene danger tapes illustration Stock Vector - 34125214

By Edward Lamar Green

Almost anyone who reads police procedural novels is familiar with the term “suicide by cop:” where the actions of a malefactor or troubled individual creates a threat of violence, injury or death to nearby persons and provokes law enforcement agents to resolve the matter by use of deadly force to subdue the individual representing the threat. In the novels, this usually enables the victim to end their life without being classified as a “suicide”, thus protecting loved ones and family member’s ability to receive life insurance or wrongful death benefits because the actual cause of death was by the hand of another party; the law enforcement officer who actually applied the deadly force.

A workplace variation of this is what is known as “suicide by job.”

Throughout my professional safety career, I have reviewed post-accident and fatality reports describing scenarios wherein a worker either directly violates or disregards safety policies and procedures, resulting in the worker’s death. Even though the employer may have provided adequate safety training, warnings and personal protective equipment that the worker often foolishly disregards, resulting in serious injury to, or death of, of the worker.

More often than not, this will be classified as an accident, placing the financial responsibility for compensation and payment of survivor benefits squarely on the shoulders of the employer! The deceased or injured victim’s loved ones and family member’s ability to receive life insurance or wrongful death benefits is preserved because the actual cause of death was regarded by agency investigators and plaintiff’s attorneys to be due to “negligence of the employer.”

I now look at each accident or fatality through new eyes: Who was actually responsible? Was it the employer’s inadequate safety program, or was it “suicide by job?”

How many accidents were actually suicide attempts? It is important that each employer have a program in place that not only monitors traditional job safety hazards, but also the internal stresses on susceptible workers, their emotional attitude and any decline in their diligence regarding safe work practices.

PEER Leadership Recognition: Russell Battles, CHSO, Saulsbury Industries HSE Director

Russel Battles Receives Safety Certification

Friday, January 19, 2018

A professional health and safety administration peer, Russell Battles, Saulsbury Industries HSE Director, has received his Certified Safety & Health Official (CHSO) certification from the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service after successfully completing over 237 hours of classroom training through the Extension Service.  In the safety management and administration profession, the CHSO is regarded as more of a “real world” achievement than purely academic credentials such as other traditional safety-based degrees and designations  (“CSP” etc)..

This designation, awarded to only 200 individuals annually, is for highly-experienced and educated people who perform safety and health management  and administration work on a daily basis or have safety oversight responsibilities for worksite safety and supervision including inspections and audits.

We extend to Mr. Battles a sincere congratulations for his accomplishment.

Is “Jobsite Safety” Really a Company Concern Or Just “Executive Jargon” To Facilitate “Talking The Talk”?

By Edward Lamar Green, OSHA-authorized safety outreach trainer and regulatory compliance professional

For many within segments of the oil, gas and pipeline construction industry the performance of safe work appears to be a product of the Milton Bradley Company, a board game instead of a real-work work necessity.  In this realm, individual empires are created, maintained and “lorded over” by individuals who appear to have a greater concern for their own power bases than for workers’ occupational health and safety concerns.  I have seen offices literally papered with meaningless certificates issued by the individual’s own company or trade organization.  They look impressive and provide ego-inflation power, but seldom hold-up under the scrutiny of serious discussion.

Until my formal, but premature, retirement in February 2012, my modern-day career path had been that of a construction engineering manager for an international division of Fluor Corporation.  Since then, I have worked as a consulting project manager and safety professional, assigned to often remote, but always interesting, locales. Working in back-country regions of West Africa, South and Central America, as well as less-than-sophisticated regions of the United States, it does not take long for a diligent manager to recognize the critical role a safety-focused work place occupies toward the successful completion of a major project.  One serious injury incident can bring the entire operation down like a house of cheap playing cards!


Industry Investigation: Age Discrimination a Concern among Oil and Gas Workforce Candidates

by  Matthew V. Veazey | Rigzone StaffTuesday, December 12, 2017

Two-thirds of poll participants report first-hand experience with age discrimination. Age discrimination – or at least the perception of it – is a significant concern in the oil and gas industry, according to a recent poll on Rigzone’s Twitter page. In fact, 66 percent of the 1,603 survey participants selected “yes” when asked if they thought they have ever experienced age discrimination while searching for a job. The finding parallels more formal research cited by AARP that reveals a similar conclusion on a broader scale: the majority of U.S. workers surveyed have either seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace.

As this U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)-compiled list of pending and resolved cases under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) cites, frequent violation of hiring practice rules and guidelines include, but are not limited to:

Under contemporary hiring practices, are these individuals “too seasoned” to hire, perform work duties, lead and work?

  • Developing hiring criteria that exclude applicants above a certain age for managerial or general workforce roles
  • Manipulating layoff criteria to target affected employees based on age
  • Extending a search to fill a vacancy in order to find someone younger than a more seasoned leading candidate

To be sure, there are limits – at least under U.S. law – regarding what actually qualifies as age discrimination, point out Alicia Locheed Goodrow and Terese Connolly, partners in the cloud-based law firm Culhane Meadows. Goodrow and Connolly – based in Houston and Chicago, respectively – noted that two examples of what falls outside the bounds of age discrimination include:

  • Terminating an employee who happens to be over 40 years old after the employer has compiled sufficient written documentation of consistently poor performance or misconduct – as long as others who consistently perform poorly and/or engage in the same or similar misconduct are treated equally.
  • Refusing to hire a highly experienced engineer who does not possess the technological skills necessary to perform the job and has expressed a lack of desire to learn such skills.

Nevertheless, Goodrow and Connelly said that employers need to tread carefully when making “adverse employment decisions.” Examples of such decisions include refusals to hire, demotions and terminations, and employers should contact legal counsel beforehand to ensure that they are complying with all applicable laws and regulations to mitigate risk, they said.

Read on for additional insights from Goodrow and Connolly regarding age discrimination, including how it can occur in the oil and gas industry and what proof is necessary if you think you’ve experienced it. (Note that their comments correspond just to the U.S. federal ADEA statute. Various individual states have their own variants of ADEA that are broader than the federal law – and the confines of this discussion.)

Rigzone: Broadly speaking, what is age discrimination and what isn’t age discrimination in the context of employment? For instance, are there any rules-of-thumb that one can use to gauge whether discrimination has actually occurred?

Goodrow: ADEA protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The ADEA’s protections apply to both employees and job applicants. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition or privilege of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments and training. The ADEA permits employers to favor older workers based on age even when doing so adversely affects a younger worker who is 40 or older. The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees.

Rigzone: What are some common ways in which age discrimination manifests itself in hiring, promotions and layoffs? Are there any examples unique to the oil and gas industry?

Goodrow: In the oil and gas industry, we more frequently encounter age discrimination issues in layoff situations than in hiring and promotion, though it can occur in all of those areas.

Over the past 20 years, it has become very common at the middle management through executive levels to structure early retirement buy-out plans when the price of oil dips and short-term profits look bleak. Often the large, multi-national companies have very generous benefits packages including historic employer-funded pension plans, generous vacation packages and premier health plans. Older employees with longer tenures are more expensive to keep on the payroll because of these benefits packages. It is possible to structure a non-discriminatory voluntary retirement plan that incentivizes older workers to retire.

The trouble comes in when the plans are not truly voluntary and come with penalties for electing out of the option to retire.

On the promotion/hiring side, the oil and gas industry currently has a skill-based generation gap in the engineering ranks. Generation X is often underrepresented because there are fewer Gen X employees with strong petroleum/energy engineering backgrounds. The Baby Boomers are retiring and the Gen Y and Millennials haven’t yet gained the practical experience to fill the gap. That means many companies want to keep the older workers involved longer to mentor and train, but not hire older workers (those between 60 and 75 years of age) due to the perceived stigma and bias associated with older workers. But it may also mean that the 40- to 55-year-olds are caught in the middle.

To prove an age-discrimination case, you need to show that you are part of a definable group and that some in that group are clearly favored over others for age reasons and not reasons related to performance, experience, tenure, etc. Age discrimination is based on outcomes more than environments. It is very hard to demonstrate that a “hostile work environment” has created an age discrimination right.

Connolly: With respect to hiring in industries across the board, when interviewing older workers, many biases can come into play. A common bias is the perception that older workers lack the technological skills. To avoid the unfortunate consequence of overlooking a candidate with extensive industry experience, employers would be wise to educate those employees in charge of hiring on their own biases in order to interrupt the bias. Ideally, hiring teams should consist of individuals from each generation.

Rigzone: What options do you have if you believe you’re the victim of age discrimination? Are there any steps before simply contacting an attorney?

Connolly: Review your company’s handbook policies and be sure to follow the internal procedures for reporting. Note to employers: If you do not have such policies, you need to have them drafted. If you do have such policies, you should be updating them yearly in accordance with federal, state and local laws and regulations, which change from time to time. This is especially true when there is a change in the administration.

Rigzone: How can individuals ages 40 and above make themselves less likely to experience age discrimination?

Connolly: Everyone in the workplace can interrupt bias against older workers by not playing into those biases.

For example, we have all heard from our co-workers, “don’t get old, it is no fun” or “I cannot stand and speak for an hour now that I am older.” These comments in the workplace affirm the stereotypes about older workers.

Instead of accentuating the negatives, accentuate your positives. If you are 40 or older, remind those around you that you still frequently skydive, do trapeze, run marathons, etc. Comments like these are sure to interrupt biases.

Most importantly, never stop learning. As Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old whether at 20 or 80, and anyone who keeps learning stays young.” Continuing to learn keeps you relevant no matter how old you are.

Goodrow: If you can, find opportunities to publish or teach in your field. Make sure you are up to date on personal and professional technology relevant to your field. New apps, software and tools like tablets, robotics, and artificial intelligence interfaces evolve constantly in all industries. If you’ve been out of work or consulting from the sidelines for more than a few months, be proactive about keeping up your skills. Geophysicists and geologists work with Big Data daily and partner with programmers to manipulate and evaluate data. Machinists are now largely programmers of specialized computers. Landmen in the field have to use satellite-based communication and monitoring. Everyone at the rig or in the refinery or field is expected to have a Smartphone and use it for work and play, and work apps are increasingly designed to build on fun skills used in personal technology.

If you are currently interviewing, craft a resume highlighting concrete experiences and skills that are relevant. Downplay or even eliminate jobs you held in the 1980s and 1990s that are not relevant now. Don’t include years of graduation or years of employment except for recent activity.  It is not reasonable for an employer to require that a resume include a complete work history, nor is it deceptive to exclude employment history that is not germane to the work you are seeking.

Statement from OSHA Regarding Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2016

Statement from OSHA Regarding Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2016

WASHINGTON, DC, December 19, 2017 – The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of 2016 (the most recent year available) Fatal Occupational Injuries reports there were 5,190 workplace fatalities in 2016, a 7-percent increase from 2015. The fatal injury rate also increased from 3.4 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2015 to 3.6 in 2016.

More workers lost their lives in transportation incidents than any other event in 2016, accounting for about one out of every four fatal injuries. Workplace violence injuries increased by 23 percent, making it the second most common cause of workplace fatality. Today’s report also shows the number of overdoses on the job increased by 32 percent in 2016, and the number of fatalities has increased by at least 25 percent annually since 2012. 

Loren Sweatt, Deputy Assistant Secretary for OSHA, issued the following statement regarding the report:

“Today’s occupational fatality data show a tragic trend with the third consecutive increase in worker fatalities in 2016 – the highest since 2008. America’s workers deserve better.

“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is committed to finding new and innovative ways of working with employers and employees to improve workplace safety and health. OSHA will work to address these trends through enforcement, compliance assistance, education and training, and outreach. 

“As President Trump recognized by declaring opioid abuse a Nationwide Public Health Emergency, the nation’s opioid crisis is impacting Americans every day at home and, as this data demonstrates, increasingly on the job. 

“The Department of Labor will work with public and private stakeholders to help eradicate the opioid crisis as a deadly and growing workplace issue.” 

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit

# # #

U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Office of Communications
Washington, D.C.

For Immediate Release
December 19, 2017
Contact: Office of Communications
Phone: 202-693-1999

Habits of Effective Safety Managers

10 Good Habits You Can Use To Make Yourself More Effective As Safety Professional

By Lamar Green, OSHA-authorized safety outreach trainer and regulatory compliance professional and William H. Kincaid, CPS.

[Photo: Lamar Green and a project team conducting a weekly Job Safety Review (based on daily Job Safety Analyses]

The most effective people managing safety and health in industry know that a safety program is much more than writing rules and training employees to follow them. Although terms like “leadership ability” and “people skills” are overused to the point of sounding meaningless (especially on resumes!), success or failure in business often hinges on dealing with human personalities effectively. This certainly applies to safety and health matters. The following is offered as an introduction to 10 good habits that can make you more effective.

1. Praise employees when they choose safe behaviors. These are the acts you should encourage. Try to be specific as to the good behavior you are praising, and sincere and timely in your praise. Obviously, fair and equitable enforcement of company rules should not be overlooked or discontinued, for a lot of sound reasons. However, studies indicate that positive reinforcement of good behaviors is often more effective than punishment of bad behaviors in directing the future behavior of employees.

The trick is to encourage enough safe acts when you observe them, so that when it is appropriate to discipline an employee for a safety violation, it will not outweigh the positive benefits of praising the safe acts. This motivation effort is a basic part of the behavior modification which can help employees see safety as a core value.

2. Solicit participation from employees. Listen when people offer suggestions, concerns or complaints. They are “in the trenches” and their suggestions might be better than your ideas, so give them a chance. Don”t immediately write off their comments just because they come from ordinary employees, even if they are not soundly based on current safety industry practice.

Pay particular attention to employee complaints and respond quickly and appropriately to all of them. Most people get frustrated when they feel someone isn’t paying attention to them. You may find that they will keep looking until they find someone who wants to listen to them, such as someone from OSHA. Time spent developing listening skills will be well worth the investment.

Although sometimes employees are wrong about something that concerns them, when they are ready to express a concern or complaint, be ready to listen. Later, after you”ve had a chance to evaluate the issue, you can talk to the employee and explain why no action needs to be taken.

3. Reward employee participation. Production employees will often feel very proud of their efforts to contribute to resolving safety and health issues, either on the work floor or in safety meetings. It”s usually not part of their job description or field of expertise, but they feel they are helping their fellow workers, perhaps possibly saving someone from disability or death, when they participate in safety and health matters. If these employees feel that this participation is unnoticed or unappreciated by management, their enthusiasm turns to cynicism. Make sure that you encourage them by recognizing their value to employee safety and health and by letting them know you appreciate their help.

4. Be a shining example. People learn more by watching management than they would ever care to admit. Always follow every rule and procedure religiously, if you want others to do so. You can bet that your behaviors and actions are being observed much of the time, whether you notice it or not, so don”t excuse yourself from complying with rules, such as wearing hearing protection, even if you know you won”t be in a department long enough to exceed the TWA for noise. You should keep a supply of earplugs, regular and visitors” safety glasses, and any other personal protective equipment which is required in the facility for yourself and any visitors that might accompany you into the plant.

5. Invest in people. It could be something seemingly minor, such as lending a home safety training video to an employee to take home, or bringing in jugs of “sports drinks” for employees working on a particularly hot day. Your investment will build your reputation among the employees far more effectively and positively than anything else you can do.

6. Continuously improve and simplify facility and/or jobsite safety. Remove hazards where possible, rather than protect employees from them. Although your more experienced people may not have any problems with a given condition, new employees tend to have more accidents. Eliminating hazards makes it easier for new people to stay safe. This might seem obvious, but it is not routinely exercised in every company.

For example, a company bought a corrosive liquid for use in a process. It was purchased and stored in a central location, transferred to smaller containers and distributed as needed to various subsidiary jobsites, where it was diluted substantially and neutralized.

The safety director knew that the required goggles, aprons, gloves, etc. were not always used at all locations. Furthermore, he had to try to ensure that OSHA-required Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) training were always up to date for these subsidiaries. Although no injuries had occurred to the senior people who handled the liquid, the safety director worried that a new and inexperienced employee might eventually be asked to do this job and be injured.

Rather than simply try to protect the employees who were handling the corrosive material at the subsidiaries, the safety director decided to dilute and neutralize the liquid to a safe pH at the central location. Thus, no goggles, face shields, gloves or aprons were necessary except at the central location. Now, a project is underway to purchase the material with the neutralizer already added, to eliminate the hazard completely (see Hierarchy Of Safety Controls graphic, above).

7. Visit facility and job-site areas regularly. Surprisingly, some safety managers walk through production areas only once a week or less. This can inhibit communication and cooperation by reminding employees of the management status of the safety manager. Make a walkthrough of at least one plant area per day to let employees see that you are there for them, and allow them to offer their comments and suggestions to you. Most production employees would rather talk in person than call you by telephone, so being there establishes a line of communication. This simple habit may give you opportunities to catch problems before they become too serious.

8. Maintain openness. Make sure to tell employees as much as you can about what you are doing when you monitor, test alarms, bring visitors through, change safety equipment or procedures, etc. The job-site production area is like a home to production workers, and they often have great interest in what happens in it. Give them as much factual information as you can when you are conducting safety and health business in their work areas.

Real-life examples of a lack of openness show how expensive it is to hide facts, even unintentionally. In an auto assembly plant, an employee noticed an unusual odor near the end of the assembly line and complained to a safety representative. The complaint went to management, who sent an industrial hygienist out to take pull-tube samples. The hygienist found that the brand of gasoline going into the cars had been changed and so had the slight odor generated when filling the cars. The air was fine.

Finding no real problem, the hygienist went back to her office without saying anything to anyone on the line. Seeing someone taking samples agitated the employees, who eventually called the local OSHA office and filed a complaint. They were sure that management was hiding some kind of dangerous chemical leak from them and had kept them working in possibly hazardous conditions. The reasons for their fears? The hygienist didn”t let them in on the sampling results and the employees” imagination filled in the resulting blanks. By the end of the day, over 100 employees had gone to the clinic with an array of imagined “symptoms.”

In another case, employees assumed that visitors from an insurance carrier were OSHA inspectors. When the visitors came and went without a word to the employees, they decided “OSHA” had been “paid off.” As unlikely as it is that someone from OSHA could be paid off, the employees hung onto the rumor for years.

Had the safety representative discussed the safety concerns, the industrial hygienist’s investigative process, and — most importantly — reviewed the hygienist’s findings at a regular safety meeting attended by the workers, the problem would have most-likely resolved itself. An open introduction of the insurance carrier’s visitors and explanation of their role would have removed the mystery associated with their visit.

Company silence or a “no comment” statement will always promote suspicion.

9. Learn the names of as many production employees as possible. Almost everyone likes being recognized by name. It helps bring down communication barriers. This results in benefits to your safety program. I’ve seen that the best safety professionals in industry can walk through a plant and personally greet everyone on the floor by name. Although some of us are not good with names, you do get credit for trying.

Eat lunch regularly with the production workers. In one workplace, an invisible class barrier had always existed between “management” and production people. Production workers were not included in day to day running of the firm, mainly due to the owner, who wanted to be involved in everything and delegated no authority. The safety committee included only management personnel who answered directly to the owner.

While unable to convince the owner of the company to stop micromanaging, the safety director started to bring his lunch so he could eat with the plant employees regularly. Each lunchtime session was an informal safety mini-meeting and most were substantially more productive than the “official” safety meetings.

10. Try to learn something new AT LEAST ONCE PER day. Safety and health professionals who have professional certifications must acquire continuing education units to maintain their certifications. There is a good reason for this requirement. It helps keep these professionals current about safety and health issues. You can do the same thing, often at little cost.

For example, read an article in a safety and health publication, whether you think the topic relates to you or not. Free seminars from your workers” compensation carrier may be available. Call an OSHA office and ask questions (make sure you have a genuine OSHA inspector on the line first). Meeting and networking with peers is also constructive.

Develop your resources. An effective safety person would do well to have contacts within the ranks of production employees and management, at other companies, at the local OSHA office, at the workers” compensation carrier”s loss control department, at trade organizations and at safety equipment supply houses.

Practice these 10 habits routinely, and you will see the benefits develop over time.

About The Authors

This article is based, in part, on columns by Edward Lamar Green and William H. Kincaid, CSP, published in EHS Today in October, 1996.Mr. Kincaid is corporate director of safety and health for Highland Supply Corp., Highland, Ill., a manufacturer of film and foil packaging products for the wholesale floral industry. He was an OSHA safety engineer for many years and a graduate of Washington University.  Mr. Green is an OSHA-authorized construction safety outreach trainer and thirty year corporate regulatory compliance manager.

Following Rules Of Journalism Yields A Better Event Report

As a college student one of my elective courses was Introduction to Journalism. Although it was a single-semester class, the course was a valuable resource and had a profound impact on my writing and understanding of written communication..

Using the journalism principle of “Five Ws and an H,” the instructor taught us how to gather crucial facts, then how to organize those facts into a detailed narrative instead of bullet points. Completing and expanding each of the essential elements is how “data” — bullet points – evolves into a narrative, a story and a report.

The “five Ws” represent::

WHO?” – who were the persons involved in the event?  This includes the names and contact information of each victim, and of each perpetrator, and of each eye-witness to the event or incident.

WHAT? – what happened exactly, from the point of view of participants, victims, perpetrators, and eye-witnesses?  The opinions of those who only heard about the incident – called “hearsay” – do not count and should be ignored.

WHERE? – where did the event occur?  Describe the circumstances and include copies of official reports prepared by authorities on the scene.

WHEN? – when did the event occur?  What were the lighting and weather conditions?  How many hours did each of the parties work prior to the event?

WHY? – why did the event occur?  Were traffic, excessive speed or worksite conditions a factor? How about distractions or workplace congestion?  Did lighting and weather conditions contribute? Were involved persons properly trained for the tasks being performed? Was a Job Safety Analysis conducted before starting the work that led to the incident?  Were necessary work permits issued and monitored prior to the incident?  Were proper tools and Personal Protective Equipment used for task execution?

The “H” represents “HOW?

How did the incident occur? This is a narrative of the timeline of actual event leading up to and including the incident.  It links the Ws and helps complete the narrative by telling “the rest of the story.”

First and foremost, the event investigator should be a Reporter: gather the details of each fact situation, then organize them into a complete narrative. It is not necessary for the report to draw or express conclusions.  That should be a group activity where facts are discussed and each is analyzed from the perspective of every other fact.

The finished event report should consist of two main sections.  The first section should be a presentation of the facts, without commentary.  Think of Jack Webb as Detective Joe Friday, a character in Dragnet, a 1950’s television drama: “We’re looking for the facts, ma’am.  Only the facts.”

The second section should be “the story,” a narrative created from the facts. The purpose of an event or incident investigation is to determine cause so that mitigation actions may be developed and implemented, not to assign blame. Every manager, supervisor and individual worker should be reminded of this regularly.

More important than the event investigation is prevention. The conditions and events which later become “the facts” should be the focus. safety personnel, supervisors and workers should foster a habit of awareness. Like a soldier entering a battlefield, they should survey their workplace; identify existing, new and potential hazards; communicate them to others within the area; and together make plans to address each one at the daily Job Safety Analysis meeting.

After a while, with repetition of this process, prevention and mitigation will become instinctive, bringing safety-related incidents and injuries that much closer to extinction.

About The Author