Are workers defensive about safety investigations?

by on May 26, 2011 · 4 Comments POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network
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Do some of your workers get defensive during workplace accident investigations?

If so, the problem might be in the language used with workers during the fact-gathering stage.

Safety consultants Scott Brown and Dave Challburg of SAIF Corp., Bend, OR, suggest you or your supervisors avoid two words at this critical early stage:

1. Investigation
Who wants to be investigated? No one, says Brown and Challburg. The word “investigation” is suggestive of criminal inquiries to some workers.

If your supervisors say they’re conducting an accident investigation, some defensive types may feel like the company is looking for the guilty – so they’ll immediately try to make the case that they’re innocent.

If this is a problem, consider using a phrase such as “incident analysis,” “safety analysis,” or something along those lines.

2. Fault
Similarly, banish the term “fault” or “cause” during the fact-gathering stage. Later, during an analysis of the facts, you may want to discuss causes.

But initially, when questioning workers, have supervisors avoid using the word “cause” or “fault,” even if workers use those terms. Instead, keep the conversation focused on the facts – what happened, what workers saw, what they did – and not what caused the accident.

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4 Comments on This Post

  1. May 31, 2011 - 7:00 am

    You may think that workplace safety only needs to be addressed by
    companies that perform dangerous activities, such as mills, factories,
    and auto manufacturers.  Office jobs also pose threats to your safety
    due to your lack of movement since you find yourself sitting in one
    place for a long period of time.  You want to make sure your chair is at
    a proper height so you can reach your keyboard while maintaining good
    posture.  

  2. May 31, 2011 - 7:00 am

    You may think that workplace safety only needs to be addressed by
    companies that perform dangerous activities, such as mills, factories,
    and auto manufacturers.  Office jobs also pose threats to your safety
    due to your lack of movement since you find yourself sitting in one
    place for a long period of time.  You want to make sure your chair is at
    a proper height so you can reach your keyboard while maintaining good
    posture.  

    • May 31, 2011 - 7:06 am

      The most common workplace illnesses are cancers from exposure to
      hazardous substances, musculoskeletal diseases, and respiratory diseases
      caused by exposure to pathogens, and hearing loss.  Asbestos-related
      disease such as lung cancer and asbestosis caused by inhalation of
      asbestos are also common.  Workplace illnesses pose a greater problem
      because you may not have symptoms until years after the damage was
      caused.  You may no longer work for that employer and they may attempt
      to argue that the cause of the disease was elsewhere.

  3. May 31, 2011 - 7:06 am

    The most common workplace illnesses are cancers from exposure to
    hazardous substances, musculoskeletal diseases, and respiratory diseases
    caused by exposure to pathogens, and hearing loss.  Asbestos-related
    disease such as lung cancer and asbestosis caused by inhalation of
    asbestos are also common.  Workplace illnesses pose a greater problem
    because you may not have symptoms until years after the damage was
    caused.  You may no longer work for that employer and they may attempt
    to argue that the cause of the disease was elsewhere.

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