I have shared with you that each plant manager calls me when an accident occurs.
Yesterday, I received a call about an accident that illustrates why paying attention to the frequency of accidents matters.
Here’s the short story: two guys were working to relocate something heavy. One guy was using a forklift and the other was helping with the activity. As I understand it, the forklift didn’t handle the load in the way the helper “assumed” it would. The heavy load was dropped and clipped the helper’s toe. The result was a few stitches to a toe. It’s a minor accident.
But, there were a number of things that contributed to it. Better planning. Better communication. Better precaution (move further away while to load was being handled). A number of other things.
Our teammates were experienced. They go into tough places every day. Handle big loads.
In this case, the factors aligned and an accident happened.
Here’s my point:
What will go down as a small accident was only inches from being a major one. A few inches closer to our teammate’s foot, the load could have caused a crushed foot. It could have affected the ability of him to walk again. It might have caused an amputation. Or, maybe, hundreds of thousands of dollars of surgery and rehabilitation.
The good news is our plant manager got that. He knew we were lucky. He knew that we were blessed to avoid major injury and major life disruption. Major expense. He sees the opportunity to revisit this and make sure everyone understands the significance.
Near misses and partial misses are the best teaching opportunities. To review them, consider ways to avoid them, consider the possible impact if we don’t fix the problems, inherent in the near miss are opportunities with which we must take advantage.
Frequent accidents and near misses indicate a breakdown of good safety practices. We must be diligent to prevent things from happening which change lives. When something happens that could have been bad, stop and fix it so it won’t be bad in the future.