Questioning Our Career Field

“It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.” Jacob Bronowski, “The Ascent of Man”

We stopped teaching Heinrich’s Accident Pyramid this year. We should have stopped sooner.

For decades, we’d instructed all safety professionals in the Air Force on the validity of the pyramid and its implications; that by focusing on the prevention of minor injuries we’d also reduce major injuries. Thanks to people like Fred Manuele, who questioned the seemingly unshakeable model, we now “see” the myth. Link to Manuele’s article here.

We should also question the hierarchy of controls, the efficacy of JHAs, human factors coding, every incident investigation model, and risk management processes (among other “foundational” EHS concepts). Not because they are wrong, but because we owe it to the field and those we serve. If the ideas survive renewed scrutiny and remain effective, fantastic. If not, we must ready ourselves for new models and press forward with focused research.

What will you question today?


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