Whilst assisting a client recently to investigate an accident, it became apparent that a combination of taking a short cut and a lack of concentration were the key contributory factors. As a safety professional, I know that most if not all accidents are caused by a failure in the management systems, but some seem to down to sheer stupidity.
The accident in question involved a worker leaving a designated safe access walkway to walk between a large steel structure to cut a corner saving no more than 2 seconds in time. What he failed to see was a cross beam support at about 1.5 metres high which he promptly walked into causing him to fall and hit his head. The gash in his head required hospital treatment.
Clearly some questions need to be answered to try to identify the root cause and to fix the problem from happening again. What was clear was that it was hard to conceive that this accident could have been regarded as reasonably foreseeable; however there is a clear requirement to implement additional controls.
The HSE has for a long time clearly identified that most accidents are attributed (at least in part) to unsafe actions and therefore the key for employers is to ensure their risk assessments consider what people may do. As we often tell mangers that we train, you need to consider the “unthinkable”.
The question all employers should ask is, “do our risk assessments look at how people work, not how we would like them too?” A key area of focus must be to check what shortcuts workers may take.