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New Campbell Institute Report Reinvents Safety Triangle

Oct. 29, 2018
Updated safety model is based on identifying root causes and contextual factors.

 The Campbell Institute has released a new report that examines the classic safety triangle and suggests a new prevention model.

Serious Injury and Fatality Prevention: Perspectives and Practices takes an in-depth look at serious injuries and fatalities in the workplace.

“Companies in our report know that safety is a work-in-progress with the goal of continuous improvement,” said John Dony, Campbell Institute director, the center of excellence for environmental, health and safety at National Safety Council (NSC). “To be at the top of their game, these companies recognize that they have to do more to protect their workers. While such incidents may not occur with frequency, implementing a serious injuries and fatalities prevention program is how these organizations move to the next level of maturity.”

Over the past two decades, the U.S. has seen enormous gains in workplace safety, according to the report. 

The gains in safety are illustrated by the total recordable incident rate, which dropped to 3.0 incidents per 200,000 working hours in 2016 from 8.5 incidents per 200,000 hours in 1993.

The reduction in total workplace injuries was not paralleled by a similar reduction in life-altering injuries and fatal incidents. In fact, worker fatalities are at an eight-year high, with 5,190 people dying in 2016.

The Campbell report recommends a redesign of the classic safety triangle, which consists of non-injury accidents, minor injuries and major injuries. This model treats all minor incidents and near misses as if they had the potential to result in a more serious injury or fatality and diverts attention away from the incidents that have the most potential to result in something serious.

The updated structure is based on identifying the root causes and contextual factors that lead to serious injuries and fatalities on the job. Organizations cannot make their workplaces safer by “fixing the worker,” rather they should design work processes to eliminate human error. This makes safety less dependent on employee behavior and more dependent on the safety system.

Strategies to prevent serious injuries and fatalities from occurring include identifying potential precursors to such events and educating employees about those precursors. In addition, companies can focus on eliminating the potential for such incidents to occur.

Taking these steps can lead organizations to a higher level of safety management, as shown by the companies featured in the Campbell report.

“The organizations featured in our report consistently pointed out that going from the concept of a serious injury and fatality prevention program to actual implementation requires careful planning – both around the processes used and the responsibilities assigned,” Dony said. “In addition, buy-in is needed from the entire organization, from the top down. Having these factors in place will go a long way toward implementing a successful prevention program.”

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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