Focusing on this type of near miss may prevent your next serious workplace injury or fatality

Workplace accidents place a heavy toll on employees and companies. While we can’t calculate the emotional costs of accidents, we can calculate the financial ones. The National Safety Council estimates that the total cost of work injuries in 2020 was $163.9 billion. That staggering figure includes medical fees, litigation, workers comp, insurance premiums, regulatory fines, and reduced employee morale and productivity.   

Organizations that want to protect their employees while avoiding the steep costs of accidents must implement a modern, proactive approach to accident prevention. Thankfully, they can do just that by focusing on injuries and near miss events with SIF potential.  

A Serious Injury or Fatality (SIF) event is an accident or near miss that resulted in or had the potential to result in a fatal or life-altering injury or illness. Identifying which events had SIF potential is a valuable tool because it illuminates the serious threats confronting your workforce and guides where to focus the investment of your time and resources to make the most significant impact on overall site safety.  

While focusing safety efforts on SIF reduction has recently gained popularity, its roots are in a theory first presented almost a century ago.  

Heinrich’s triangle 

Herbert Heinrich first introduced his famous Safety Triangle in the 1930s, and it has been a topic of conversation in accident prevention ever since. Heinrich’s theory is often visually represented by a triangle with three sections and explains that for every serious injury, there are 29 minor injuries and 300 accidents that result in no damage. The main idea is that if you can reduce the 300 near miss accidents at the bottom of the triangle, you can prevent the serious ones at the top.  

While Heinrich’s Triangle significantly impacted modern safety and health, it is also often criticized as oversimplifying the relationship between near miss events and serious accidents. Many of today’s top safety professionals argue that while near-miss events and serious accidents are related, only those with the potential to result in a serious injury or fatality truly matter.   

In contrast to Heinrich’s theory, the SIF approach doesn’t treat all near miss events and injuries the same; instead, it determines which incidents could have been much worse and focuses attention there.  

The SIF approach towards serious injury prevention 

Let’s say your organization recently had two work-related injuries. The first injury involved a worker cutting their finger while filing paperwork. The second involved a worker with a bruised shoulder after a wrench falling from the floor above struck them.  

Both incidents resulted in an injury, but a paper cut is the most severe injury likely to occur during paper filing. In contrast, the worker struck by the falling wrench could have been seriously injured or killed if the conditions were slightly different. Therefore, when you have limited time and resources, putting the same effort into reducing paper cuts as reducing dropped objects doesn’t make much sense.  

Making SIF determinations helps organizations get the most bang for their safety buck. However, while eliminating low-level injuries is valuable, it isn’t as important as preventing a workplace fatality that will have devastating, long-lasting effects on the worker’s family and the business’s bottom line and reputation. 

How EHS software simplifies the process 

Your organization needs robust data to take full advantage of the SIF approach. Unfortunately, many companies don’t have a consistent system for injury reporting or a centralized, efficient method to store, track, and analyze accident and injury data. EHS software solves this issue and provides leaders with deeper insight into their operations’ safety and health, helping them make intelligent, proactive decisions that impact overall workplace safety.  

EHS software provides a centralized location to store all incident-related information, dramatically improving your recordkeeping process, a vital component of safety and health compliance. No more digging through stacks of paper or file cabinets to track down the information you need for annual OSHA reporting. In addition, EHS software provides robust analytics that enable continuous improvement and shows where you are strong and where you could use some work.  

Learn more about SIFs 

Not all accidents and near-miss events carry the same weight regarding serious injury prevention. Focusing your organization’s safety efforts on eliminating events with serious injury and fatality potential is where the real benefits lie. To learn more about Serious Injuries and Fatalities and best practices to protect your employees and your company, download the whitepaper, “3 Ways to Prevent Serious Injuries and Fatalities.” 

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