An injury occurred. The worker went to the hospital. Directors and managers want answers. How could this have happened?
Traditional EHS tells us to search for root causes. Find the cause and you’ll find the correction.
And a leprechaun sitting on a rainbow.
If you’ve ever determined the cause of the mishap to be behaviors like hurrying, inattention to the task, overexertion, poor timing, inadequate hand/eye coordination, not following the checklist…or any of the other infinite “causes”, you’ve felt the same frustration.
So you conducted the investigation and filed the report. And nothing was fixed.
What if finding the cause isn’t the answer?
In “Injury Epidemiology“, Leon Robertson discusses the problem with causes (Chapter 8). In short, why focus on inattention or overexertion, if the entire injury sequence can be avoided by breakaway signs, guardrails that absorb energy, or cars that automatically brake in an emergency?
Yet many in EHS choose to focus on the very traits that make our organizations great. Do we really want employees, associates, and team members to never overexert, only do one thing at a time, walk slowly, never ever deviate from the way it was done before, fear all risk, and carefully read every single sign on every single wall? Really?
NOTE: I write this as one who may have wasted a few years espousing the religion of causation at all costs. Yes, in some cases, eliminating the cause (where possible) can prevent the incident. In other cases? Lose the cause and focus on injury prevention.