For companies that have experienced workplace injuries throughout the years, it may seem unlikely that you can hit a target of zero injuries. And yet, there are numerous examples of companies achieving such targets even after years of consistent injuries occurring. It’s not that achieving an injury rate of zero is impossible, but it can be difficult and requires a significant amount of effort and attention.
Ashley Johnson, Associate Editor at the National Safety Council, tells the story of how a chemical company in Norwalk, CT made the switch from forecasting ‘an acceptable’ number of injuries each year to planning for zero injuries. They couldn’t come up with an answer when customers began to question the acceptance of ‘some’ injuries in their operations. If a company forecasts two, three, or four injuries per year, they are, essentially, setting that as their goal. It becomes an accepted norm.
Ms. Johnson describes the company’s new goals, “The program sets an ambitious objective: zero employee and contractor injuries, zero manufacturing process incidents, zero distribution incidents and zero environmental incidents.” They have yet to hit their target, but the goal remains.
Is there Such a Thing as Acceptable Number of Injuries?
Michael D. Lawrence, owner of Summit Safety Technologies, agrees with the zero-injury approach, “Many may look at this target and think it is not possible. These may be people that believe accidents and injuries are just a part of life and cannot be eliminated. They might say that getting to zero is impossible as a practical issue.” But are zero workplace injuries impossible? Lawrence wonders, “Do we limit ourselves by saying and believing that zero injuries is not possible…sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy? If we say that zero injuries are not possible, then how many injuries are acceptable each year, and what type of injuries is acceptable?”
Lawrence observes, “It absolutely can be done! You can change the culture at your organization to the point where safety is a part of everything you do and is second nature, not just a priority or policy. This is the point where you will achieve and sustain zero injuries.”
Mike Tuck can relate. Tuck is Safety Platform Leader for Kimberly-Clark Professional, a safety supply company and an InjuryFree client. From 2010 to 2012, Tuck reformed the safety culture at its newly acquired Belmont facility…a facility that had averaged an injury per month for 30 years.
Tuck recalls, “Starting as the new facility leader during September of 2010 and having personally worked in facilities with multiple years of injury free performance, I knew it was achievable–I have lived it. Coming into (the Belmont facility), the belief was that injuries are just a part of doing business… (Employees were saying) ‘you just don’t understand, Mike, this is just what happens here.’
In July of 2012, the Kimberly-Clark Professional Belmont plant achieved a full year without a reportable injury and is over 500 days to date. To resolve their manufacturing ergonomic issues, they utilized InjuryFree’s Employee Maintenance Center to help them reach their goal of zero injuries.