Ehstoday 2258 Conklin

NSC 2015: Redefining Safety – Living in the Context, Not the Consequence

Sept. 28, 2015
Check out our complete coverage of the 2015 National Safety Council Congress & Expo.

Too often, safety success is measured by failure: how many people were hurt or killed.

Todd Conklin, senior advisor at the Los Alamos National Labaratory, offers an alternative.

“We’ve got to live in safe work,” Conklin said during a forum discussion at the National Safety Council Congress & Expo in Atlanta, Ga.

Studying failure is not a predictive approach because, the safer you become, the smaller your dataset also becomes, he said.

“Safety is not the absence of accidents. For us, safety is really the presence of defenses,” Conklin said. “We have to move away to reacting to consequence and start responding to context.”

There is a misconception that procedures only are ignored when there is an accident. Conklin challenges leaders to ask workers how often procedures also were ignored during safe work periods.

“More rules will not make your company more safe,” Conklin said. “If you don’t believe that, ask anyone in coveralls.”

Procedures, he said, do not account for variability in a job.

“What is getting us in trouble is the constant variability that the workers must deal with,” Conklin said. “Our tools assume that hazards are permanent.”

Rather hazards actually are constantly in motion and have a great degree of variability.

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