NSCA Foundation

Zero in on safety

By Christian Fournier (CHSC), Fornebu Lumber Company, Canada
Thursday, 15 November, 2018

Zero in on safety

A university student from the UK (United Kingdom) recently asked me what was my take on target zero incidents or accidents at the workplace and is this achievable? To be honest, I was thinking that she (a student) had received this question as an assignment but I realised that this was a great opportunity to spread the safety message in a different part of the world. And now in Australia, with this opinion editorial.

The main reason why you have to aim for target zero incidents/accidents is quite simple. Can you go to your co-workers and say: “I hope that only five of you get injured this year”? Can you face your children and neighbours and say: “I hope that only a couple of you get hurt”? Even though there are probably some neighbours who you wouldn’t mind getting hurt, it doesn’t give the right message and doesn’t feel right.Therefore, you have to always strive for that zero incidents goal/target.

This target or goal of zero incidents/accidents can become an overwhelming challenge even for the most experienced safety professional. However, in my opinion, the word “accidents” should be avoided in occupational health and safety. When people think about accidents, the first thing they think is: “Oh, it’s an accident. You can’t avoid an accident.” So, people have the pre-notion that workplace accidents can’t be prevented. That’s why you hear the term “incidents” more and more in occupational health and safety.

What does it take to have a good safety program?

A good safety program is similar to an iceberg. Everybody can see the result but not all the hard work that was put into it.

There is no secret ingredient and/or formula, or as one of my colleagues would say: “There is no silver bullet.”

For me, it’s like being a chef. The ingredients and the way you mix them together are crucial to the success of your safety program. If you have the wrong ingredients and/or don’t mix them well, you might not have the results you wish your safety program to have.

So what ingredients are we talking about?

Corporate values

Safety should be part of the organisation’s corporate values. It demonstrates to the world your organisation’s commitment towards safety, from senior management down to all its employees.

Commitment from management

Commitment from senior management is crucial to the success of a safety program. Companies accomplish this in different ways:

  • Top-down safety
  • Senior management visits sites to specifically talk to employees

Safety policies/procedures

Employees must know what the rules of an organisation are. That’s where policies and procedures come into play; without them, serious injuries will occur.

Near-miss reporting system

The goal of this system is to identify near-miss incidents. This is an imperative tool in accident prevention. Many companies have their own version of this system.

  • MAP (Major Accident Prevention) program

Behaviour-based safety

This is part of employee involvement in the safety program by helping management to supervise employees to ensure that everybody is working in a safe manner. Again, several companies have taken this and modified it for them.

  • Mentorship program (green hand)

EHS training

You cannot have safe employees if you don’t show them how to work safely. You can easily implement safety training into your monthly safely meetings (different training topics every month).


Having good communication within an organisation is especially important in safety. Some companies use the following:

  • Pre-shift meetings
  • Phone apps
  • Safety moments
  • Communication monitors
  • Safety memos

Safety improvement program

Like anything else in business, being able to improve as an organisation is important to its growth. Same thing when it comes to safety; organisations must always look to improve.

  • 5-year strategic safety plan

Safety audit program

Safety audits are always useful to help determine if there are any gaps (or what I like to call them: improvement opportunities) in the organisation’s program and to see how the safety program is performing.

  • Leadership safety audits
  • Internal safety audits
  • Third-party safety audits
  • OHSAS 18001 audits
  • CORE audits

Risk assessments

How do we determine if there is a chance of someone getting injured by doing a certain task? By conducting a risk assessment. Several companies took this and made it their own:

  • Take Five
  • JSA (Job Safety Analysis)
  • Pre-shift meeting

Employee involvement

Employees must be involved in order to be successful in safety. Employees can be involved in several different ways.

  • Behaviour-based safety
  • Joint health and safety committees
  • Accident investigations
  • Health and wellness committees
  • Internal safety audits
  • Workplace inspections
  • Hazard reporting

Joint health and safety committees

Health and safety committees are the driving force in an organisation’s safety culture. They also play a crucial role in the safety program. Depending on their involvement within the safety program, they can help positively influence the employees.

Self-assessment questionnaire to suppliers

Organisations are not only responsible for the employee’s safety but everyone that conducts business with them. The assessment can help your organisation to evaluate the contractor’s safety program. Having contractors with a good safety record and program is the only option in order to improve your organisation’s safety program.

You have to keep in mind that every organisation is different, which means that you will have to modify/add ingredients to have the maximum results for your organisation.

Safety is continuous, never completed, never done. And we should always strive to improve safety.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Romolo Tavani

NSCA Foundation is a member based, non-profit organisation working together with members to improve workplace health and safety throughout Australia. For more information and membership details click here
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